“The Green One Over There” by Katia Kapovich
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
The Green One Over There
My half-brother had dark sad eyes, wheaten hair and the same gorgeous skin his mother had. He was cute and smart and innately kind, unlike me at his age, according to our father. Five years younger than me, Tim attracted all the love my father had frozen in his heart when I was growing up. Tim was brought up on my old books. He did better than I with poetry, reciting by six some “grownup” verses which I couldn’t memorize at eleven. At eight he wrote a poem at the back of his math exercise book and forgot about it. It was a love poem with an underlined dedication, “To A.” It so happened that I knew who A was. The poem read as follows: “I loved and missed her so much that I forgot what she looked like, and when she entered the classroom in the morning, I did not recognize her. I did not recognize her long face, nor her slow neck, nor her skinny hands, I had completely forgotten her green eyes.” It was quite a work of art, in my opinion, but I told him that to sigh about legs and necks and eyes was sentimental and girlish. He listened to me with dry eyes and then tore out the page and threw it away into the wastebasket. He never wrote poetry again, but I did. At fifteen I wrote a short story which had some success and was even published in a teenage literary magazine called “Asterisks.” It was around that time that I stopped visiting my dad’s house after I realized that everything about this boy put me down, humiliated me and filled me with jealousy. I would meet dad on one condition: if he wanted to see me, he had to come to my place or to stop by at the artsy café, where my older friend Lena and I would go after school to sip strawberry milkshakes. One day my father came to my school during class hours to take me to a hospital: the night before my half-brother had gotten sick. We arrived in the middle of the doctor’s rounds. The waiting area was noisy and smelled of urine and medication. Dad had gone inside, I waited for him to call me in. Through the door left ajar I saw a row of iron bunks with striped mattresses. Tim’s was next to the door. He lay leaning on a big gray pillow, a glass of water in his hand. The doctor wanted him to take a pill, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He was willful, obstreperous, he pushed away the hand of medicine. “I want that ship, that ship …” he whined. “What ship?” My father turned pale and stared at the doctor. “Can’t you see? The green one, over there!” cried Tim, inserting his finger in the glass of water where a green ship, a three-funneled steamer, was slowly sinking at the time.
From Gogol in Rome, 2004
Copyright 2004 Katia Kapovich.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of Salt Publishing. Copyright 2004 by Katia Kapovich. For further permissions information, contact Chris Hamilton-Emery, Salt Publishing, P.O. Box 937, Great Wilbraham, Cambridge, CB1 5JX UK, [email protected].
About the Poet
Katia Kapovich is the author of seven poetry collections in both Russian and English, including Cossacks and Bandits (Salt Publishing, 2008). Kapovich composes in both English and Russian.
Learn more about Katia Kapovich at The Poetry Foundation.