How to Watch Your Brother Die

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How to Watch Your Brother Die

By | April 2009
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“How To Watch Your Brother Die” written by Micheal Lassell is an interesting poem, though it reads like a short story. It is written almost as a guide to several different things. The main character is a straight man seeing a different lifestyle, that he had shut out, for the first time. The first time really seeing what other people, though gay, still human beings, have to go through to live in our society. A society that he has helped make into what it is. He is also a man watching his brother die in a hospital across the country. A brother he has shut out of his life because he disapproved of his lifestyle. The issues that Lassell discusses in this poem are those that take place every day in our world. The pain of losing a brother that you have not spoke to, and the pain that a lover feels when his companion is dying are those of which many have not experienced, but some day they will happen to all of us. The brother did not seem to feel so bad when Lassell writes about the lover's last words to the brother before boarding the plane to go home. He says," Forgive yourself for not wanting to know him after he told you. He did” ( Lassell 649). When the brother heard this he now understood his brother and his life. He now knows that his brother wanted to forgive him and now he does not have as much pain in his heart for the way he had treated his brother. By making the narrator the straight brother, this poem gets that necessary distance. It makes him a stranger to these worlds of AIDS and homosexuality and the subject of the poem is really his journey to empathy with these worlds. He starts understanding of the humiliations they partake of, of the prejudices directed at them. This is all the more impactful for coming from even those close to him, like with his wife's squeamishness about hearing about the love between two men. And even from himself. Because in allowing himself to wonder, to question himself, he is acknowledging the unconscious prejudices he has...