He's ain't heavy/he's my brother

Earlier this week I crashed a good friend's storytelling event by forcing audience members to repeat after to me, 

Everyone, all together now:

My brother was killed in Iraq.

I over-enunciated every syllable in a sing-song voice. I was emphatic and confident: "My brother! Was killed! In Iraq!" I said "Eye=rack" instead of "Ear-rock" because the shitty American pronunciation (of words not our own) is always harsh and accusatory.  I used poetic emphasis to install a congregation-like atmosphere. I swam the butterfly stroke onstage to encourage, rather, demand, audience participation. I made eye contact with people who refused to chant with me. I spoke with zest and a smile. I am the sort of person who says many things with smiling zest, but I also had a microphone and a stage and a crowd and a bourbon or more.

Perhaps the power went to my head.


This month is a decade since his death. I'm feeling slightly unhinged about this significant anniversary. Should I buy myself something tin or aluminum? Tattoo a bird on my face? I could class it up and get myself one of those Garage Freezers? Should I purchase a Temper-Pedic on a new credit card as sleep is so often a problem? 

Maybe I should make a shirt with his face on it. I can use the picture of him in uniform, probably at a barracks party. He looks shitfaced and delighted and toothy and far too young and he's flipping off the camera. The whole image screams, "America! Fuck yeah!" so I'll caption it with, "America! Fuck you!" even though I know no one cares to hear what I have to say unless I say it in a nice way.

I don't make a shirt. I pick Facebook fights. I make "abrasive" statements because I am "volatile" and a real "pot-stirrer." I am my most serene when I am getting hip-checked at roller derby. I picture myself on fire in front of the White House. I would never set myself on fire because it would totally, like, kill me, but in my daydream I stomp around on fire without hurting myself or anyone else. In my daydream I am calm beneath the flames because I've simply begun to accurately portray my insides on my outside. I cannot set myself on fire so I dye my hair a coal-emanating orange. My husband catches me in the morning sun and says, "Your head is glowing."


How did everyone just go on? How can people still tell me, in some kind of fucking earnest, that my brother died fighting for their freedoms? Do they even Eye-rack? Do they Wiki or Google? Are they simply too busy to ask questions? Where is their rage on our behalf? How many illegal, money-grabbing wars must we endure until someone says enough? What does their freedom feel or taste or smell like?


I binge-watch Hoarders until I run out of episodes. I distract myself with piles of other people's pain until I can barely stomach their emotional clutter. I switch to Intervention and romanticize families coming together to stop their loved ones from dying. I agree with my best friend, Megan, that maybe we ought to try all of these drugs in our 80's, just to see what the fuss is about. She has breast cancer and people in my family don't tend to live very long, so maybe taking LSD at the age of 87 is just a pipe-dream for us. Maybe we should start collecting secondhand dolls and lamps and vests instead. If we can't save ourselves from the trash heap, what might we rescue otherwise?


You might say my first attempt at stand up comedy did not go well. You could even say I


I made notes for myself, but when I held them up onstage all I could read was

My brother was killed in Iraq.

My brother was killed in Iraq.

My brother was killed in Iraq.

All work and no play and my brother was killed in Iraq. 

I hold the pain in me like all that elevator blood in The Shining. I can feel it shifting and sloshing inside. If I let it out, it will drown us all, but I think that's kind of what I want now. I want his blood to wash over all of you. 


Calling out his death keeps me from meditating on his life. This may not be healthy, but it is what it is.


I've been watching Roseanne. What a fucking bully. What a fucking racist sellout piece of shit. What a Trump-supporter. What a dumb-dumb bitch-ass cunt. 

The New York Times asks Roseanne, "Was it your idea for Roseanne to back Trump?" This is redundant, and oblivious, and uncritical, and I expect no less from these delusional Gray Ladies. Yes, it was Roseanne's idea for Roseanne to back Trump. Because Roseanne is playing Roseanne. And Roseanne, on or off camera, is not intelligent enough to understand that context matters. Roseanne thinks she can still be ugly-old-crocheted-blanket-covered-couch Roseanne even though off-camera she's Macadamia-nut-farm-and-leather-sectional-sofa-in-Hawaii Roseanne. She's "I run for President every year and I blatantly hate Jews" Roseanne, and she is successfully embodies this bigoted power-grabby Roseanne because she has convinced herself and others she is still "Persecuted Everywoman with Job Instability and Shitty Health Insurance and Mouthy Kids" Roseanne. 

These are tragedy-addled thoughts. They are likely too complex for Roseanne, or Roseanne.

On her "portrayal" of who she calls "Trump supporters" Roseanne says, "...it is an accurate portrayal of these people and people like them. In terms of what they think, and how they feel when they are the ones who send their kids over to fight. We've been in wars for a long, long time, which everybody seems to forget--but working class people don't forget it because their kids are in it."

Jokes on you, Roseanne. My people don't vote for pieces of shit. Many of my people don't vote at all, and I don't judge them for it, because I'm pretty sure none of you loud, visible, powerful whites, are working for us anyway. We're smarter than you are because we've had to be. You're audience is much smaller than you think, Roseanne-squared. The only working poors interested in what Roseanne One or Roseanne Two have to say are racist whites. When Roseanne says she represents "Trump supporters" she really only represents racist whites who believe their humanity is restored/maintained by siphoning it off from others. 

"But jobs!" Roseanne says, or it might have been Roseanne, and either way, for once, she is right. America loves money more than it values life. 

I know this because my brother was killed in Iraq.


This is my brain on my brother was killed in Iraq. 

It has turned me into a fucking bully. 


Megan and I spend too much time trying to identify the rhythm of

My brother was killed in Iraq. 

We have settled on iambic tetrameter, four beats in a line, the syllables moving from unstressed to stressed:

My brother was killed in Iraq.

Megan delights in the irony of this, the nursery rhyme tempo at odds with the horrific content. This is also a description of who I am as a person. Joyful and bubbling. Bubbly and seething. Onstage and glowing with rage and regret. Standing in front of you, reworking pain into poetic jokes, hiding in plain sight.


Sometimes I just want to be someone else. I want to not know the things that I know. I am, right now, happy, well-adjusted in my life, surrounded by loving dogs and generous partners, and I also want to be someone else, somewhere else. I want to be outside of my own head, somewhere where I am not on fire, a me that is me, but also a me who is quenched. 

I have decided this me is possible if I merge my daydream with reality. I will be in Washington DC on the tenth anniversary of my brother's death in Iraq. I think I will make signs and shirts and handouts. I think I will setup in front of the house the oppressed built. 

This is also the tenth anniversary of the death of the 21-year-old Iraqi kid who pushed the button that detonated the bomb that killed my brother in Iraq. I mourn his death; I burn for him too. Somebody else keeps putting these buttons in our hands, and forcing us to push down hard.

I want to be a different me, a me who will see some kind of justice post-awkward-public-protest, but I know the people who pay for war are not the same people who profit from war, and I am weary from knowing this thing.

A month before my brother was killed in Iraq he told my mother this:

If I don't make it back, you better not be in front of the White House, screaming for me. 

And I hear you, Ronnie, I hear you, but I think I just realized

all of this is really

for me.


Whoever she is.