After a Sister Is Language

Sisters lifted in shadow arms shrieking like foot

cut on glass. A wind-wail in the pale forgotten

loam and corner dust where we left dirt to hide. The smallest

home is for sisters where the inked foot

and bonnet rise into the late sun. A missive morning

misspoken near the jail shadow of crib rails or looming

parent bed, the tree flutters above stench of newly paved street,

of handprints on the desk lamp clicked off for the whisper

of cotton and the secret between elbow-bone-to-belly.

Bellow in the aftermath of noon, amid the climbing vines

this new kin. This ribbon light in the white-walled room.

A fragment to have and forget, have and forget,

forget and have the hands, the twinned shadow,

the forking comb, that mewling beast; the newest sister.


And what is next? The round vowels of cover-speak,

the word mother knows, mouth of the old country, old tongue

in new mouth, in the flat land, in the heated

room the dolls named and bathed in the cotton mind

where the sisters chant rhymes to lose. When the child

walks into the schoolhouse and knows nothing of the language

but speaks song and rhyme. The mind is memory

of a blue light that can’t reach us. Head bowed

in halogen. Lips tight in vow of forgetting.

That language. Old repeat, of dumb, of doll dress,

of young sisters, teach them

a deep tonic new words for this dance—


Here is the landscape

for pots and a garden of places I won’t follow you, sister.

See: when one is cut the other is crying.

You remember how it was. With us

like it is with them. Like us

as it was for our mother.

Our grandmother? She never saw

her own again. They waved goodbye on decks

then and stretched out across a long earth.

But even now, if I open my mouth in the twilight I can’t find your noontime sister.

So I tell them: yes she takes half your things

and yes you should be thankful.

Imagine if there was only that starched

pillow case. Imagine the empty hollow of her, she will

one day just blow out the window and there will be no

more rocking after that pine-pitch.

You might remember the bark on your legs

how she pulled you up, or how always her hair

was impossibly long and that sting

in the soft clutch of her who closed her palm round

a bumblebee and crushed it alive saving

you the swell of it, lavender rubbed and walking

on hot pine needles, what you needed

before you needed.

Your mouth open wide.

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