THE OLDER BROTHER

He was smart, my younger brother,
Handsome, pleasant-natured, too.
Father plainly spoiled him, giving
Far more to him than his due.

Where he got the crazy notion
That our father's property
Could be split between us brothers
Baffles and perplexes me.

Father, though, dear loving parent,
Saw no harm in doing this.
So that boy got half my birthright,
Then gave me a farewell kiss.

Off he went to distant pleasures—
Not for him hard work's reward.
Keeping livestock was beneath him;
Farming clearly left him bored.

Stories of the lad would reach us,
How he wasted Father's purse—
How he threw away his fortune:
Gambling, women, wine, and worse.

Father put on deepest mourning,
Just as though this son had died.
I, alive and ever near him,
Was no comfort, though I tried.

Suddenly today my father
Hastened out the door and ran
Out upon the road to gather
In his arms a beggar-man.

"Bring him shoes, and bring him clothing!
Bring a ring!" my father said.
"Bring the fatted calf, and kill it!
Welcome home my son once dead!"

Yes, it was my younger brother,
Ragged, dirty, hungry, frail,
Scourged by poverty and famine,
Shaken, humbled, thin, and pale.

Father's giving him a party,
Honoring this son returned.
He has asked why I sit frowning—
Why the gaiety I've spurned.

"Son, you have been ever with me;
All I have is yours, you see.
But this lad, once dead, is living—
Lost, has been returned to me."

Maybe someday in the future,
Maybe in the life I've planned,
Maybe when I have my own sons,
Maybe then I'll understand.

Beth Robinson
February 14, 1995

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