Late afternoon & my brother and I are moving through the strewn hallways of the future. The ceiling is unadorned, & a cloud of sulfur hangs from it, benign and low, wetting our eyes. My brother holds an unlit cigarette in his mouth, a loose screw. A needle protrudes from his arm like a white steeple from the tree line. He asks if I have a light, & I tell him I left it behind.

I walked my brother here. I walked behind the tarn of his glacial shadow. The afternoon trails my brother like a stray dog searching for clean water. There was a glacier here, he informs me, but he is speaking of the past. He doesn’t speak again. The light fumbles through the courtyard, the hedges of top-heavy olive trees, strewn with fruit. My brother’s nose bleeds into the corner of his mouth. He blames the altitude, but the altitude is low.

My brother hums a low & forgiving song as he walks behind me. I can feel a song in my mouth, too, the same one my brother hums: heavy, heavy hangs over thy poor head… We have walked these warm hallways before, strewn with kilt pins, two titanium urns, a wheelchair, & headlamp radio, casting a furtive circle of familiar light.

The light fails. There is a lowly mercy in the air, blowing in from the east, smelling of debris & strewn seaweed. We don’t consider following its impulse. We are unwelcome there. The executioner walks behind us now. My brother holds his breath & I hold my breath, too. The future is a warm amalgam in my mouth.

In the compartments of his mouth, my brother has hidden a light-blue tab, a quick-release blood capsule, a spade, an undulating hospital bed, a purple morphine lollipop. I knew my brother before he was born. The notion of him was low-hanging. The executioner is not what I remembered. He does not hold a ruby-strewn scythe. In a low voice, he beckons my brother & I. Fear crawls out from behind the high hedges. The air is ruby-strewn.

I am ruby-strewn. I am the high hedges. I know perfection. I have spent afternoons with my hand against it. The executioner speaks without moving his mouth. The past is far behind us, but we can still hear its light, frantic footsteps. In the low bramble of forsythia, my brother gets high. He spits in the eye of the present. I was born in the warm rooms of my brother’s past. In the future perfect, I will have welcomed my brother.