I acquire a betta fish, for no special occasion except,
I’ve always wanted one.
Small, shriveled red,
Like a slice of dried tomato,
Floating at the top of the tank. Someone has pressed
Black beads into the face. The guppy lips are perpetually unhappy.
It is an ugly thing.
My brother jabs the glass, and names him Burt.

Every day Burt circles his tank. Its corners are fresh and frightening
To his three second memory.
When my roommate leaves the window open,
The cold forces its way through the screen.
Burt dies.
I perform resurrection beneath the flicker flicker bathroom lights.
By noon he breaches the surface and breathes. I am so happy.

Just because, I introduce my favorite fish to my favorite person,
Jacob. My brother,
Skims his finger along the surface of the water. Sixteen year old boy,
With a child’s shriek as Burt rushes the skin,
And nicks it with weapons no bigger,
Than pinpricks.
Jacob looks slighted by his own stupidity- dipping down to try again.

He’s got that same mischief in him, that he swings,
Whiffle fast, down the halls of the high school.
I used to like to watch him rally with
My boyfriend,
Before he knew I even had a brother. Had a
Lego building, French horn playing, Grey shirt and grey shirt only wearing,
Bigger than me little brother,
Who poked at my boyfriend, because he wanted to,
And who I think the world of- completely and utterly.

Come April,
Police officers will stand by the doors of the high school,
While kids transpose their wills,
Through text.
My brother’s last words to me,
“I swear to god if your ex-boyfriend shoots up the school ima be mad.”
Atlasing his last round of illegible memes.
Feeding the fish this morning has lost its luster.

I didn’t know lives were priced like this.
That I only get one prayer, one wish,
One panicked moment beneath the flicker flicker lights,
Pleading with whoever will listen.
My life for Jacob’s.
I’d give anything.
By noon he’s mad that I dote too much.
False alarm. Don’t worry.
I am watching my brother breach the surface.