— for my brother

If you hadn’t named him, you could say
it wasn’t meant to be.
If you’d had another boy,
you could’ve wiped the slate clean —
used the name again.
But you never had another boy.

John is your name too, and sometimes
when someone calls, you hear an echo.
On weak days you listen and succumb to the sadness —
a lake you fall into fully clothed.
You emerge cold to the bone.

At such times you wonder who he might have been,
how he would have sounded when he laughed.
He spent less time out of the womb than in it.

Now no one in the family mentions the baby.
So each year you kneel, light a candle, say his name.