Cathexis Northwest Press

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New York State Sees Criminal: 
I See Brother
00:00 / 02:15

Through the screen 

I see: 

eyes blood red 

lips trembling 

then I see him. 


Then, him. 

He speaks 

through tears 

and I remember, 

I can’t be soft.


You’re 28, your life 

is not over. 


I can’t be soft. 


I’m sister. A role. 

But really a god. 

I’ve become something 

larger than omnipresent.

Closer than knees-in-prayer-away 

but far away, still. 


1,200 miles feels like 3,000

when your flesh is rotting. 


He, there, heartbroken. 

Me, here, pretending to run away. 


Tattooed knuckles 

crumble like shattered 

glass — he’s so broken. 


He was shattered 

before he broke 

into me, but he did. 


He was shattered first

and he never healed. 


When he stands, he pools 

around himself, pushing 

sharp objects into a human 

for us to see. 


Once, he did it long 

enough to make, and so, 

he made two beautiful boys. 


When I pray to God 

who is really God, 

I say enough! 


God, damn-it, enough heat! 

Since when do you need 

this much heat to blow 

beauty into shattered glass? 


Please, God, can’t you 

see he’s broken.





Flose Boursiquot is a Haitian-born poet and writer. Her work has appeared in Ghost City Press, South Florida Poetry Journal, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, HuffPost, on Blavity, and in 2017, BET named Flose one of its millennial poets to watch. The Malala Foundation's Assembly Platform featured Flose's personal story and spoken word poem "March On Sister" in their September 2018 issue. Flose has two collections of poetry: Close Your Eyes, Now Breathe (2017) & loudmouth (2018). Connect with her via or on Twitter @letitflosepoet.

In "New York State Sees Criminal: I see Brother," the state, an entity, and I see the same person, but how we relate to him differ. There's no real mention of why the state believes my kin to be criminal; that doesn't matter here. It's not my role to read his rap sheet: it's my role to be his sister.

My process for this poem was emotional. I wrote it while in tears and shortly after I came off the phone with my brother. He was going through it; it's not my place to say what. I edited it. Cut stuff out. And I worked to make the pain and anger evident. But there's some mystery.

The poem also holds confusion and answers. I want to "save" this loved one, possibly because of cathexis more than love. In the first stanza, I see his pain before I see him. Still, he's brother, and I want to play God – make his pain go away. Maybe there is love?

By the end of the poem, I realize I'm not God. I still have to crawl to God for answers and to make demands – to plead.