Death is one of those relentless occurrences that leave so many unanswered questions. It is unimaginable to think of death in a generalized sense, much less when it is someone that is so closely related to your heart. “How to Watch Your Brother Die” is a beautiful poem by Michael Lassell that captures one man’s experience with death. The theme of commitment and the characters attitudes of commitment, displayed in the text, go beyond a simple pledge or promise—it is an empathetic obligation between all of the characters involved.
Irrefutably, one of the greatest commitments within this poem comes from the love and compassion of two lovers; through “thick and thin,” there is the constant commitment to one another. What separates this story from the typical fairytale of “happily ever after’s,” is that fact that this lover is watching his homosexual partner die from AIDS. The conversation between the gentleman and his brother’s partner really sets up the level of commitment between the couple: “‘Say, I’m sorry I don’t know what it means to be the lover of another man.’ Hear him say, ‘It’s just like a wife, only the commitment is deeper because the odds against you are so much greater’ (30-35).” Despite everything the lover is going through and the problems they may have faced in previous times, he finds it necessary to comfort the brother. He recognizes that the brother of his dying partner never got to experience love like he did—the fear of abnormality held him back from being able to fully open his heart to the eccentricities of his brother’s personality. The excellent writing of Lassell helps connect this theme in the beginning, middle, and end of the poem. Throughout the entire reading, you feel sorrow for the partner, and losses he had and are experiencing currently.
Although the love between the two lovers is strong, there is a bond between siblings that is unlike any other kind of bond; there is a special commitment to one...