My brother is made of light.
I have known this since he was big enough
to run, since I was old enough to fear
for what I’d find beneath his skin
should he fall and scrape a knee.
My brother looks to his older sister
for a knowledge that stands against
all his questions. He is young enough
driven by nothing heavier
than a hunger for the world.
Why are the sea and the sky blue
are there more colors than the human eye
refracts back to us, how light are birds
that the tides of air can lift them
how did the universe begin. It doesn’t matter
that I can’t get the science straight, only that I speak
with a certainty he can measure. Light is so delicate
it hits the air and scatters into all its component colors.
A clear cloudless day-time sky is blue
because molecules in the air scatter
more blue light from the sun than red.
When we look towards the sun at sunset, we see red
and orange because the blue light has scattered
out and away from the line of sight.
But I don’t how old my brother is
when he discovers what he is made of.
It slips out of him a confession, one night
in the living room, over a bowl of chips,
a fighting game. His fingers tap against buttons
the willowy Chinese princess on the screen aims a kick
legs roundhousing an assembly-line of soldiers.
They dissolve bloodlessly against the ground
too digital to stain her shoes. She wears a purple
silk sheath dress and a golden phoenix in her hair
and it is half-crown and half-statue
and the dust of battle does not settle on it.
We cannot sleep. At 3 AM, these virtual bodies feel more solid
than the ones we sit in, crunching away at potato chips
trying to make sound happen. My brother asks me why
must I inhabit this body. Why am I not a winged creature,
rising hollow-boned into the scattering blue,
and am I so hollow the very air will scatter me.
I do not tell him it cannot be verified,
that I have no way to logic him out of his body
and into the princess, to overwrite his long arms
with wings. I do not tell him we aren’t digital anymore.
This isn’t the China of our video games
where winning wars is a matter of hand-eye
coordination, depth perception, precise little pushes
of buttons—where we can stand an army of one
against a thousand, where phoenixes nest in our hair.
I do not tell him I have no knowledge
to protect you with, only measurements of mass and density.
You cannot fly because the human form is earthbound.
You would need a wingspan of a hundred feet.
You would need oceans of sky
to displace your weight.
We’d jump, and break against them.