THE MARBLE

I had no notion I could outsmart my older brother

until one morning I suggested he catch marbles

in his mouth. I would drop them from above

as he lay head back on the sofa. Some danger

of swallowing, I knew – but none that he'd resist

a sporting challenge. He was so absurdly pleased

when he caught the little sulphur-yellow one.

He spat it into his palm and blindly handed it back to me –

arm straight as a slot-machine lever. But I had

a bigger one up my sleeve, with a scarlet swirl trapped

in the glass: a streak of blood in a shrunken museum.

How my belly warmed to his gullibility as he gulped

it down and his eyes bulged in disbelief then alarm

and there was my marble: an inflamed eye – my own spy –

travelling irreversibly through him like one that

knows its way: oesophagus, stomach, duodenum –

a 360-degree X-ray camera surveying enemy territory

from within – rotating through the passages and labyrinths,

learning and recording liver, lungs, and every chamber

of his bullying heart; small intestine, large intestine –

and oh my out-of-body ecstasy

when he was under orders to use a potty,

our mother having to rake through every motion

with a dinner fork until at last a cry of joy. First published in The Rialto, Issue 83

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