Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost

Bleary pixels rhapsodize a total absence of midnight. Of hearts lost & levels gained

as you drifted off to sleep watching a drawbridge snatched from beneath

Bowser’s feet for the umpteenth time, & red rupees & bottled fairies scrounged

from blockbushes, or the next robotic mini-boss blown to bits by a mega buster

blast. You, baby brother, who only liked to watch but never play, for hours on

end as an 8-bit fanfare blipped deep into the school night. I promised not to tell

mom if you didn’t & we were safe then from the dive-bombing, spinnaker sun

of life’s grief; the unseen, falling thwomps of a future beyond our tiny

understanding. Little did we know some green mushrooms were poison to the

touch, how some things cannot be cured by a magical leaf or bouncing star:

your sadness among them—that killer glitch inside that would cause you to click

game over forever, to leave me clutching controller #2 on infinite pause. Now I

can’t stop playing the same level over & over, the one you swore bore a secret

pipe to rainbow road, & I cannot forgive myself for all the years I watched you

struggling to unshrink without pitching you a power-up: I watched but didn’t

play until it was too late, the lava at your neck & all continues consumed. All I

know now is somewhere in the mushroom kingdom there’s a triangular flag

eternally at half-mast, an invisible question box whose vine shall never stretch to

that bonus stage in the sky. & I keep waiting at the end of your favorite level for

a fake princess to tell me the truth: the life you thought you’d find is in another castle.