Verse – Brothers


Steve Shoemaker

Our parents clearly could control our births:
Each one of us born three and a half years
After the other–boys, four boys… Our baths
Could hold two squirrelly kids, but always tears
Would start to stream, if three or more. Now all
Of us at sixty-two to seventy-three
Swim in our own oceans at home, but still
Can shower at the beach house by the sea
In our own room. Our ten grand-kids will scream
As they run up and down the halls, fly kites,
Stomp through the castles in the sand, and dream
Of being oldest, strongest–win the fights
That always happen when the cousins dart
Around–all born three or four years apart.

  • Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, Jan. 31, 2016

NOTE: Steve and his his brothers are together this weekend in Urbana, still three and a half years apart! But very much together.


Our Dad would take a bathroom scale
in both his calloused hands and squeeze
200 pounds. He said his boys
should also press their weight. To fail
meant hearing yet again how he
when in the Navy chinned himself
a hundred times a day. His laugh
at photos when he was skinny
before he read the Charles Atlas
booklet reminded each of us
of Dynamic Tension. We’d take
a towel and pull and tug to make
each tiny bicep that we had
grow big to be as strong as Dad.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, Feb. 27, 2015

Four brothers who sing together

Our parents took us to their church four times
each week: on Sunday, twice, and then for prayer
on Wednesday night–on Thursdays they sang hymns
in choir rehearsal while one, two, three, four
of us played on, around, and under pews.
“You boys be quiet!” they would often say.

We learned to sing in Sunday School: “Jesus
loves me,” and “Hallelu Hallelujah!”
Soon all of us were singing in the choir…
Then we grew up, our parents aged and died.
One atheist, one pantheist, one pair
of liberal Presbyterians–none tied
to our folk’s Baptist faith, yet when we drink
we sing their songs in four-part harmony.

– little stevie shoemaker, urbana, il, july 6, 2013