Sunday, January 31, 2010


Milestones can be happy or sad, personal or universal. The one I choose today, as a response to the Sunday scribblings prompt of Milestone, is a distant echo of the time when my brother's death left me the sole survivor of my family. I had mourned the deaths of father, mother, grandmother's, uncles and aunts. But I thought that my younger brother would always be there to share my memories of our experiences together.

Allen Sterling Jr.
Graduation from high school photo.

Berkeley is cool today
fog drifting through the redwood branches
and dimming far trees.
They have the subtle look of Japanese prints.
I hug my soft warm robe about me;
I’ve worn it now for more than twenty years,
this gift from you, my brother.
When long ago I undid its glittery Christmas wrappings
I saw it through my tears
Your generous heart had stopped
before you could bring my gift to the Christmas feast.
The long folds of the robe felt then
- and still feel now -
like your warm embrace.
The velvet plush is worn in spots,
embroidery designs on sleeve-ends almost gone.
I cuddle in it on this cool day
and think of you.

I remember not the man
you grew to be but you, my little brother:
with me in the back seat of the Chrysler,
our heads together as we slept away
the hot desert night,
motor hum our lullaby;
playing in the Tuolomne river at summer camp,
flirting with the dangerous rapids
with our swimming lesson over and lifeguard gone;
in the backyard with pierced-lid jars
to catch the bees that buzzed the blackberry bushes
- one point for each honeybee, five points for a bumblebee;
standing in the long line for the Saturday matinee
at the Oaks Theater - then -
the cartoon
the serial
Fox Movietone news
the sing-along with its little bouncing ball
and finally Tom Mix
- and you beside me, hardly noticed.

I thought you would always be there,
my younger brother
with whom I could remember.

Now I tightly wrap my plushy robe around me.

It keeps me warm.

Phyllis Sterling Smith


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this. It was very touching and I just sense the relationship you had with your brother.

Understanding Alice said...

beautiful, as ever x

keith hillman said...

This leaves me with a tear in my eye. It's sad, happy, poignant and overflowing with love. Thank you so much for sharing your memories with us.

anthonynorth said...

Beautiful and touching.

bunnygirl said...

Lovely poem, and a nice, practical gift to remember him by.

b said...

As only you could say it Phyllis...thank you.


oldegg said...

You have a great gift for touching the hearts of your readers.

Tanya Gwen Minnick said...

This was beautiful.

nonizamboni said...

Lovely tribute to your handsome brother. And your memories one by one left me smiling in spite of your loss. I'm glad you have that worn robe to keep wrapped tightly.
Sending love and best wishes for this new year full of changes!

Nishant said...

just sense the relationship you had with your brother.

Work from home India

Life with Kaishon said...

Your loss was painful. So sad. This touched my heart tonight. I am so thankful you have the robe. Very special.