Our Other Sister  (c)

        For Ellen
 


        The cruelest thing I did to my younger sister
        wasn't shooting a homemade blowdart into her knee,
        where it dangled for a breathless second

        before dropping off, but telling her we had
        another, older sister who'd gone away.
        What my motives were I can't recall: a whim,

        or was it some need of mine to toy with loss,
        to probe the ache of imaginary wounds?
        But that first sentence was like a strand of DNA

        that replicated itself in coiling lies
        when my sister began asking her desperate questions.
        I called our older sister Isabel

        and gave her hazel eyes and long blonde hair.
        I had her run away to California
        where she took drugs and made hippie jewelry.

        Before I knew it, she'd moved to Santa Fe
        and opened a shop. She sent a postcard
        every year or so, but she'd stopped calling.

        I can still see my younger sister staring at me,
        her eyes widening with desolation
        then filling with tears. I can still remember

        how thrilled and horrified I was
        that something I'd just made up
        had that kind of power, and I can still feel

        the blowdart of remorse stabbing me in the heart
        as I rushed to tell her none of it was true.
        But it was too late. Our other sister

        had already taken shape, and we could not
        call her back from her life far away
        or tell her how badly we missed her.

                                           
                - Jeffrey Harrison

 

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