The poem How to Watch Your Brother Die is a clear representation of the struggles of the homosexual community and how the outside world views them. The author recreates a situation in which a man is struggling with the death of his gay brother and learns the everyday trials he faced. The poem is told in first person so the readers can see firsthand what the straight brother is thinking. It has been a long time since he exiled his brother for being gay and gets the phone call that he is dying.
(2-3) He is dreading flying to California and meeting the lover. (8-9).
He symbolizes the fact that he has to keep a straight face and keep the emotions out of it. (10-11) He is very uncomfortable with the sexual orientation of his brother and cannot comprehend how a man can look at another man with love. (14-17) Reality sets in and he remembers his brother and the love they had for each other before the conflict with his brothers’ sexual interest.
He misses those times deeply. (18-24) He tries to relate to the lover even though he doesn’t know how. He brought up the fact that the lover was an extremely good looking man but yet all he wants to see is his reaction.
At this point he is just trying to understand how a man can love another man. This is a question that has puzzled him for a while. He finally gets his answer when the lover explains that it is just like the love between a husband and a wife but deeper because the odds are greater.
He still doesn’t understand. (25-39) They drive into Mexico to acquire drugs that are not legal in the U. S. This is where he finally realizes the challenges that his brother has faced. They are stopped by border control and are told they cannot bring the drugs back.
As he rages with anger he thinks about his children getting used to another mans hatred. (40-52) This is the climax of the poem. Society has made it difficult for people of same sex relationships to be able to coexist in today’s world without feeling exiled. He realizes he is one of the ones that judge them. He calls his wife to update her on the status of his brothers’ health. He asks her “How could anyone’s commitment be deeper than a husband and wife? ” She is disgusted by his question and does not answer.
The brother slips into a coma and his time is almost up. The man is trying to stay strong and understanding as he holds the lover. He still cannot understand how a man can hold another man, as he grieves for his brother. (59-68) The funeral director tells him that he cannot embalm the body for fear of contamination. The man feels anger and hatred towards him. This symbolizes the fact that homosexuals are always covered up, having to hide per say, from showing who they really are. The man now understands what struggles his brother went through in life.
As the man stands by the casket and greets the hundreds of homosexuals that pass by the show their respects. He realizes his brother’s life is much different from his own. Everything he thought was normal perhaps was not normal for everyone. As the passing lovers ask each other “Who will be next” we understand that the brother died from AIDS. (74-83) As the man is driven to the airport from the lover he finally gets the closer he needs. The lover tells him “Forgive yourself for not wanting to know him after he told you.
He did”. As he found this closer he learned to accept the lover for who he was. A man who loved and took care of his brother the way he should have. (84-98) One the way home the man has a few drinks. This symbolizes the cliche of men being strong and keeping everything inside hidden. He strokes the scar on his eyebrow and smiles. He knows that his brother is in a better place and has forgiven him. He thinks of his children and not wanting to make the same mistakes with them as he did with his brother.