Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 6
Fall 2012

Avoiding the Sentimental

by Robin Keehn

If I began by telling you
that my brother died at 53,
you might cringe and say
oh, another memoir about death,
a sentimental journey down the abyss.

Perhaps I could begin months before his death.
I could describe the moment when I
walked into his bedroom and saw him
naked, lying on his bed.

It was the middle of a summer day—
hot outside, a breeze blowing the
curtains in his window—
anyone would want to be naked.

He did not see me when I rounded
the corner and stepped between the
open double doors. He did not see that I
nearly backed out to leave.

He was naked and alive and a clear plastic
tube ran from a hole in his abdomen
to the peritoneal dialysis machine
beeping in the corner.

I could mention in passing the
Fentanyl patch adhered to his chest.
I could tell you that he once remarked that
Fentanyl is fifty times stronger than heroin,

or that T.V. was the greatest invention
of all time. I could describe the smell
of the room, a breezy combination
of life and death.

I could confess that I stood
in the doorway
longer than one might
consider decent.

That I studied his body—
the long scar running down his
chest, under which beat for fifteen
years the heart of a young woman.

That I noticed he had
no underarm hair,
not one pubic hair, his body

That I stared at the two stumps
ending at his thighs
the skin gathered in tight
where his legs used to be. Or
that I dream about his feet

sometimes standing on the sand
or in little cowboy boots.
But then you might say
I was going
too far.

I would have to,
however, recount the
moment when he turned his head
and saw me in the doorway
and said, “Hey Robin.”

The way he smiled,
his bright blue eyes
trailing, happy.


SHJ Issue 6
Fall 2012

Robin Keehn

lives in Encinitas, California. She teaches writing and literature at California State University, San Marcos and holds a Ph.D. in English and American Literature from the University of California, San Diego.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury