by Dawn Miller                                        

IN MY MEMORY, black-clothed strangers shuffle by my brother’s open casket while above, a yellow and orange banner of number 8 hockey sweaters shouts from corner to corner and my mother hunkers, smaller now, more bitter, yet watchful, the note she wrote in spidery script Don’t Touch Sean propped against the coffin’s white satin interior—and still, in my memory, my father sits beside her and hasn’t left to wander across Delancey Street to Kelly’s Grill—a genius place for a bar, Dad says—to toss back rye and Coke, planting his foot on the first rung of the ladder he’ll climb until he later dies, yellow-eyed and liver football-hard—and in another moment, amongst the cloying tang of blood-red roses, Grandma Jessie grabs my twelve-year-old hand like an anchor and whispers in her gentle Nova Scotian lilt God chooses to call the best homethat’s why our Sean did what he did—and bagpipes heave and weep in the background, heave and weep like the sorrow of Culloden battlefields where last summer Sean and I wandered from the tourist museum under the gun-metal sky and sprinted over slick, dewy hills to spy a kilted woman with flowing red locks pour a dram of whiskey on each grass-covered mound and Sean said I want to be a hero when I grow up—and then later still, my father plays the same highland melody on the stereo in a repeated loop, the volume set loud but not loud enough to mask my mother’s keening while I lie in bed across from Sean’s darkened room, pillows pressed tight to my ears, and shout turn it down, turn it all down.


Dawn Miller’s work appears or is forthcoming in Stanchion, Cleaver Magazine, SmokeLong Quarterly, Fractured Lit, Burningword, Jellyfish Review and elsewhere. She lives and writes in Picton, Ontario, Canada. Connect at and Twitter @DawnFMiller1.