The Morowitz Brothers: A Patriarchy Tale

In my last post I revisited Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. In the following poem you can see where I’ve borrowed Masters’ use of interlocking autobiographical poems. However, my poem zeroes in on a single family rather than a whole community; not all of my speakers are speaking from death; and I’ve also added to Masters’ formula some contemporary social issues.

The Morowitz Brothers: A Patriarchy Tale

Bill Morowitz Jr.

It’s hard to be a homosexual
when all 6 of your brothers are straight
and tough as nails.
Instead of coming out,
I played along:
I cried “faggot” and “sissy”
at any man who showed a feminine side.
I assumed misogynistic attitudes
so no one thought twice
about my celibacy.
I even tattooed a stripper
on my right bicep.
I outdrank the best of them
and started brawls
over a look in the eye.
I let my beard grow wild,
wore raggedy jeans,
flannel shirts and boots,
and found work in the lumberyards.
When my brother Derek found me on my knees
with another man behind the sawmill
I knew he’d out me,
so I shot myself
just to shut him up.

Max Morowitz

We still don’t know why
my brother Billy, the toughest of us all,
took his own life,
but it shook the family up,
especially Derek
who left his job at the lumberyard
to become a full-time drunk.
As for me, I saw that life was too short
to live in fear of who you are
and I came out to my brothers as gay.
Who knows what got into him,
but it was the first time
I’d ever seen Derek weep.

Bill Morowitz Sr.

I’ve broken my back
for 39 years as the lumberyard foreman,
the same as my father before me.
I raised my boys to be men,
hardworking, strong, fearless
and fearsome,
not the pansies they’ve become:
Reggie, a treehugger
who takes photos of flowers;
Jack, who moved to the city
to wear a business suit
and marry a feminist;
Derek, a weeping drunk;
Butch, a nurse in a hospital
where the women are the doctors;
Max, flown South
with his boyfriend,
hating my guts;
and Bill, my Billy,
backbone of all your brothers,
what happened?

– Ryan Dowling

4 thoughts on “The Morowitz Brothers: A Patriarchy Tale

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