James Summa

My Brothers Room (A Photograph)

The photograph
Of my brother’s room
As he left it
Is not in color
It is plain
Not unlike the room
Small and square
Without gloss
Or border
It is smooth
But does not lie flat

The photograph
One dimensional
Like our relationship
Is blank and bare
Like the room

Four walls can be seen
One ceiling
A single floor
Covered with carpet
Worn filthy
Where he lay
The final rest
Of a heart
Given up

The picture does not speak
No cries can be heard
The room is silent
Gray and white dominate
Shadows are prominent
Nothing is clear
It is mostly empty

A bed
Two dressers
One desk
A chair
Never read
Stories over
Tales untold

The walls hold no pictures
A mirror
With no reflection
A hole
Fist sized
Patched over
A scar
Still visible

Frayed curtains
Hang limp
A shield
Over the window
Cracked and sealed
Frozen shut
With cheap paint

A dust shade
Covers the light
Staring down
From the ceiling
A border of light
Dim and narrow
Single minded
The room
A small space

The door in the picture
Is wooden and warped
Slightly crooked
Always closed
It kept in secrets
And brotherhood out
How much more
No one will ever know

It is kept open now
No mysteries left to conceal
Or secrets to keep
No fears to trap
Or anger to hide
Nothing to forgive
Only stillness

The room reveals little
The picture even less
Easily overlooked
In a photo album
Or lost in a pile
Of family and friends
In a water stained shoebox
Under more colorful
Happy memories

It will go unnoticed
Most who see it
Will be unmoved
Passing it over
Without thought
Or contemplation

Not much happened here
Over the years
Except a life
Its missing drama
Now gone
Ended prematurely

Nothing is left
But what could have been
Just a space
A hideaway
But seldom explored

The room was always lonely
Empty of excitement
Mostly avoided
Rarely entered
Except on occasion
For secret missions
Clandestine expeditions
Hopeful searches
For Playboy’s
Or unfiltered
Pall Mall’s

Prayers died here
Except embroidered words
On a wall hanging
The only life left
A child’s prayer:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take

The odor of tobacco smoke
Does not permeate the picture
The muffled scream
Of “Purple Haze”
From a broken speaker
Cannot be heard

Nor can the cries
Of a disobedient son
Beaten further into rebellion
By a desperate father
Left with no choices
Empty of strategies
For understanding
Lacking alternatives
To corporal punishment
And its futility

No riddles are answered
By the geometry
Of this small square
Mistakes are not corrected
Regrets go unseen
Nothing is exposed
All is hidden
From the camera’s eye
Issues of a life
Left unresolved
An equation
Never to be solved
Clothes are gone
All texture is absent
Personal effects discarded
Only a pair of glasses
And a watch remain
Of no use now
For time is a myth
And a soul
Has perfect vision


James Summa is an amateur artist and poet currently studying creative writing in the M.F.A. program at The College of St. Rose.  He is a professional librarian employed as a civil servant by New York State.

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