For Josh E.
You taught me to play SuperMario Bros.
You showed me that I will never be as good as you
at playing SuperMario Bros. You always,
always beat me.
You corrected the way I clip my toenails. Straight
across, not curved in at the corners, and you saved me
from years of ingrown pain.
You told me I’m no good at building model planes.
When I sat on my F-4 Phantom and crushed it,
you told me not to take things
You told me that porn is best when stolen,
and we talked about how stark—how unmysterious
and frankly funny porn is, once
Together, we learned what the word
dildo really means and why one shouldn’t spout
the word at random, as a misguided insult,
in front of one’s mother, who kept one
under her bed and showed it to you.
You taught me how to laugh
We talked about family and devotion
to family—you showed me how family can be good, and not—
as teenagers like me sometimes complained—uncool. I learned,
in fact, that it is especially cool to love
your mother. Quietly, but unreservedly.
You explained that father does not mean sperm donor.
Father can mean something tremendous, something that has
nothing to do with biology and everything to do
You told me one Texas summer that when you died
you wanted to go to hell, because
you love the heat.
When you did die
and your mother asked if you were in heaven—
when she wept into the phone, Do you know
what he believed? Did you ever talk
about that? — I didn’t know what to tell her.
You taught me that what you are
is what you are, and to hell
with what other people think.
I learned that friendship is often silent.
We know when we’re friends, and we don’t much need
to talk about it. There were many silent moments
between you and me. And so this silence
now is not alarming. It is just a part of our friendship
Samuel Snoek-Brown is the author of the forthcoming story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, as well as the chapbooks Where There Is Ruin and Box Cutters and the Civil War novel Hagridden. He also serves as production editor for Jersey Devil Press. He lives with his librarian wife in Tacoma.