Racing Back Home With My Brother

A Poem About Guilt and Beans

A kindergarten lesson: raise a plant,
A bean sprout in some dirt in half a box
Of milk; regard the sprout, its growth yet scant;
Successful, take it home to show the folks.

Up Gold Street with my brother must we plod,
My brother wants to race and counts us down
O’er my protests. Both hands I hold my clod
And scamper, holl’ring, tripping to the ground.

The soil thus blown, the bean sprout ruined and gone,
My brother circles back to check my cries
And drags me inconsolably the long
And dooméd climb back home where, no surprise

He’s scolded for the race he want’d to play,
His harmless game perceived as to be cruel.
I cry my loss, he cries this new dismay;
And running home no more is the new rule.

I wanted him to cry as I stood by.
Now years have passed; I can’t remember why.


My mother says I had a certain cry that I could unleash when we were real small that would always summon my parents and get my brother into trouble. I’m starting to hear it now in my littlest girl when the politics of sharing are not going her way in the other room. My initial reaction is a need to quell the incivility, to interfere. It draws tight in my gut like a knot. My conscious mind tells me to let them work it out, but it’s never my first thought.

Similarly my first reaction when I remember the racing home incident is sadness for myself, spilling all that dirt and dumb little sprout all over the sidewalk. But then I see my brother getting in trouble and it’s off-balance. He just wanted to race. Back then I thought it was fair that he felt the heat for making me keep up. Now I live with kids and I see that fair is not the most important thing a lot of the time, and trouble is so big when you’re a kid, immediate and in your face, and it’s hardly ever warranted.

My brother’s 40th birthday is this month and I hope he doesn’t remember this ancient incident at all, because he got done dirty. If he does, my birthday gift for him is absolution for the loss of my box of dirt.

I’m still not going to race him, though. Dude jogs every day, I can’t mess with that.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

This is Phil.


Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. from Pexels