Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Sister's Notebook

One year, one month, twenty-four days
(depending on whether you went before or after
midnight) I sit in this spot with your
book in my hand waiting for time to start up
again, waiting for the planet to creak and
shudder and start down its tracks like before.

But nothing will ever be the same without
the yip of your laugh, the tangle of your hair,
that pinched little squint of your smile.
Sister, could you whisper what would bring you back?
I’ll thumb through the scraps, touching what you’ve touched,
tracing with my fingernail the dents your pencil made.

A recipe for dumplings,
the name of the mayor of Ficklin,
three apartments under $300 a month.
The address of the boy who cleans the glass,
how to reach Emergency when the switchboard
at the funeral home is dead for the night,
how to make a birdhouse from a bottle,
a pinwheel from a placemat, a purse from a sweater
unraveled and re-rolled. Sister, could you whisper
what I need to bring you back?

I realize that you would have enjoyed
one of those memorials in the paper so that
everyone in town says, Ahh, poor sister, has it been a year?
But I forgot. I did get the stone bench with the wording
you wrote, plus a little bit more from me, and all the kids’
names lined up in order of their birth with hearts between.
Half the family thinks the stone should be turned
to face the east, but who can tell what’s backward?
I am here without you, and that makes nothing right.

Remember the letters of questions we’d write?
Why did you go alone in the middle of the dark?
Who came for you? Why couldn’t you wait for me
to slide my arm around you? Who will I tell
what’s in that trunk we buried in the mud of our girlhood?
Who will stand by me when my time comes? Why
can’t I come there, at least to visit? Will you visit me
in my dreams from now until my dying sigh?
Where did you get that strength at the end?
How did you know what to say to me?
Sister, can you whisper what I need to know?

I stick my nose into the middle of your book,
bookworm monkeytoes hooknose wooden eye,
not for the words this time but because you're in there:
your smoky lavender scent in the leaves,
your skin cells powdery on the page.
Now I know why I took it
and why I kept it
and why I opened it today.



Mary Dawn said...


Sweet Pea said...

"I am here without you, and that makes nothing right". That line says it all to me. Just how I'd feel if my sister died. Nothing would ever be quite right again. Another poem full of power and quiet and perfection.

Claudia said...

oh deep with emotions and wonderful connections...brought tears to my eyes..much love in these sorry you have lost her..

Valerie said...

I like the third stanza best. I think it really encapsulates what was lost, the simple little things that make up a life. And not just any life, but that person's life.

Beachanny said...

The images can't bring "back" your sister but they can "send" her to me. I cried. Powerful and tender. Thanks.

Blue Flute said...

Really conveyed the sadness and made me feel empathy. The repetition of "Sister, could you whisper what would bring you back?" made a deep impact and there were powerful images as well: "how to reach Emergency when the switchboard / at the funeral home is dead for the night"

Brian Miller said...

what a heartfelt heart strings were pulled...and the repitition did its magic...felt verse...

Sky Raft Wanderer said...

"bookworm monkeytoes hooknose wooden eye," - wish I'd wrote that.

Just an excellent write here.

Charles Miller said...

This is the type of poem I want to write for my mom sOme day. So lovingly recalled with an authenticity I think makes us know that death has touched in such a way as to bring with a clear awareness of life and its meaning, which your words make so real.

Mama Zen said...

This made me want to call my sister. Immediately.

Susie Clevenger said...

This is so is my birthday and my father-in-law died a year a go today. I don't even want to think of it..your words touch me so deeply

Fred Rutherford said...

what a touching remembrance piece. You painted it perfectly, everything from descriptive verse to reflection. Great job, definitely moved me. Thanks

Leslie Hanna said...

Oh, wow, is right. Just beautiful. Made me weep. {hugs}

Michelle said...

WOW is right. I am so sorry for your loss. Sisters are so very important to our lives. {HUGS}