Cielo N. Howell

Platoon Manager


I didn’t know you very well at all.

You used to show me a DJ’s equipment in the garage of the Pennsylvania house your father owned,

You started doing Ketamine at 12, and I’m just as sure as everyone else that wasn’t the only indulgence of your youth

There was a son,

                     a teenaged mother,

a father with a gun waiting for an excuse—

You, the great and grand firstborn son:

You, the marine, brother, addict, protector:

You, uncle I barely knew until my mother screamed from across New York State

and I came running.


My brother idolized you.

He too, first son, wanted turn-table happiness, graffiti artist misunderstood by a society

that sees boy bodies as expendable.

It is a curse.

When he was 12 he would scream and bite at his own flesh like a cage,

                     and mother screamed

and I came running.

and now you—brother I barely know, tamper with pill bottles and the idea of hospitals, as you take a gummy bear laced with Ketamine.

I saved you for four years.

I went away and didn’t hear the screams.

And I saved myself because that’s all I thought I could do,

because I was also just a



Now the uncle’s liver has turned yellow like the pus in marine warrior boots,

swamp foot. Called my mother a thief, and her sisters harpies, but you were the oldest

and I was the oldest,

                             and our first instinct was to run away.

         And now you are a garden of tumors, just like your father. In the house where his garden

became a grave—

And my mother ran to Pennsylvania to beg forgiveness of

her brother

            while her son’s eyes blinked

one day,

                       one day.

Cielo N. Howell is a Purchase College creative writing major from Westchester County, New York. She has an intrigue for the unanswered, the chaotic, and the natural world. She is the managing editor of Italics Mine. When not writing she can be found in trees, antique shops, and feasting on seasonal goodies.