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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