Tag Archives: poems about sisters

The Art Lesson

Version 2

 

The Art Lesson

I look at Carolyn.
The teacher hovers over her bright shoulder.
We are sisters, bright and dark.
I stuff a bird’s nest into the hollow of the soft stone I have carved.
My mother will not like it.
She will only recognize the beauty
of the smooth hand
Carolyn has carved from alabaster,

That night, I stuff a snarl of Carolyn’s hair into
soft dung from the horse pasture.
I shape the Mimi spirit from the dung
and place it under the register in our room to dry.
When the cold snap hits,
the room takes on a feculent odor
and she wonders what is causing it.

For three days the Mimi spirit fills the room.
I reach under the register
and its outside surface crumbles in my hand.
I scrape its powder into a small pile.
The figure that is left I put in my pocket.
It is hard-baked.
The hand that held it smells like dead grass.
Some of the powder I sprinkle in a fine line
on the top of the frame around her vanity mirror.
The rest I save in my handkerchief.

The Mimi spirit I take back to class
to put in the nest.

My stone is a stone––
Hollowed,
grey.
with natural holes pockmarking it.
When no one is looking, I cut my finger with an Exacto knife
and collect my blood.
I unball my handkerchief.
I sprinkle the powder into my blood
to make a paste.
I take a fine brush from the cupboard,
paint the Mimi spirit.

They are all in front of me.
Carolyn. Andrew.
The teacher is in front of me.
No one notices.
I hear her laugh.
I pull a loose thread from my skirt
and wind it tight around my finger
until it turns white.

I take moss I’ve gathered from the oak trees
and I make hair.
I take the ankh-shaped clay tool
and scrape a hollow in the stomach of the Mimi doll.
I go to stand beside my sister,
taking the very small sharp paper-cutting scissors.
They are all watching her,
but no one watches the part of her closest to me.
She laughs, creating the diversion I need.
I quickly cut the very small piece
from inside a fold of her full skirt.
Later, she will blame it on moths.
I have told her about cotton-eating moths,
and she is a sister who always believes me.

I go back to my table at the back.
Still, not one has noticed me.
I trim material away from the part of the pattern I seek.
I cut out the very small figure of a child.
I roll the material I have cut away from around the child
into a tight wad
that I stuff into the new womb of the Mimi doll.
I roll the child into a ball
that I chew and chew
before swallowing.

I put the Mimi doll back into the nest in the stone.
Tomorrow I will pack it in a box.
Tomorrow I will wrap it in paper and ribbon.
Tomorrow I will give it as a gift to my mother.
Carolyn will give my mother the hand
and she will put it on her dresser
to display her bracelets and rings.
My stone will lie in its box
in my mother’s bottom drawer.

Next week I will steal into my mother’s room.
I will put the box under my sister’s bed for three nights.
I’ve already dug the hole beneath the willow tree—
in the soft soil where my father used to dig and dig.

Years from now, my mother will wonder where that box went.
Carolyn will have gone away before this, but not me.
I’ll say, “I don’t know, maybe Carolyn took it.”
My mother will slide her gold rings from the fingers
of the hand my sister carved for her.
She will love to stroke the cool hand.
But Carolyn will just keep going and never come back.

This is a poem I have written and rewritten over the past thirty years but which I’ve never published. It’s a dark poem and perhaps that is why I’ve never published it. I can’t remember what prompted it.  Certainly, nothing from my own life, but I recently found a folder of very old poems and decided to try to rework some of them. “The Art Lesson” is one of them. 

for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night.

Family Reunion, Off the Grid

Click on first photo to enlarge all.  

 

 

 

Family Reunion, Off the Grid

We find the key to the lake cabin
there where it always was above the eaves trough,
enter that family space deserted for so many years
and claim our old rooms.
Bring in firewood piled on the porch thirty years ago
and draw together at the trestle table
over dinners gathered
from the ice chests in the trunks of cars.

Dependent for so many years
on cell phones, e-mail and Facebook,
we grow listless over the loss of cell tower and wifi,
fall back on family videos from the far past,
and having exhausted that sparse shelf,
resort to family albums, dusty with accumulated years.

Over those cryptic signals from the past,
we begin to remember more,
and recall scraps of ourselves
that give a meaning to the name of scrapbook.
With no single screens possible,
we draw together over simple common images.

Dad in the neighbor lady’s hat,
sis in diapers and my mother’s heels,
my tea towel sarong and doily hat,
Mother, young enough to be our granddaughter,
in a stylish hat tipped down over one eye,

Middle sister standing triumphant at the top
of the slide she later fell from the top of—
a past truth I might have never known
if not sealed up, like this,
away from the wider world
and those parts of ourselves
that keep flying off to it.

I take her hand, grateful for her survival.
Just the two of us, now,
everyone else sealed up in this peeling album.
We put them to sleep again as we close its cover.
In the morning, restore the key,
nestle the “For Sale” sign more securely
into its mooring place and divide to our separate worlds,
the box of videos under my arm,
the family scrapbooks under hers.

The prompt words are past, video, listless and dependent.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/13/ragtag-tuesday-past/
https://fivedotoh.com/2018/11/13/fowc-with-fandango-video/
https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/11/13/listless/
https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2018/11/13/your-daily-word-prompt-dependant-November-13-2018/

The Twins at Eighty

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Leonora

The lustre’s left my hair and skin. I’m simply bottom drawer.
My lovely high soprano voice has deepened to a roar.
My joints are gnarled and knotted. My back is bent a bit.
I’d prefer my stomach if I could see over it.
To say I am exasperated would be understating it,
but at least the truth cannot make the claim I’m skating it.
I blame it on the influence of age, chocolate and gin.
I’m simply not responsible for the shape I’m in!!!


Isadora

The gentlemen surround me in an unbroken cluster,
exclaiming over my smooth skin—its creaminess and lustre.
My drawers are full of love letters. Exasperated lovers
seek to win my girlish shape and woo it under covers.
They fall under the influence of my winning ways.
They do not guess my actual age when held rapt by my gaze.
I do pilates every day and all my life I’ve fasted.
Although I haven’t had much fun, at least my looks have lasted!

 

The prompts today are lustre, drawer, exasperated and influence. Here are the links:
https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/22/rdp-monday-lustre/
FOWC with Fandango — Drawer
https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/10/22/exasperated/
https://dailyaddictions542855004.wordpress.com/2018/10/21/daily-addictions-2018-week-42/influence

Explorers

Click to enlarge photos.

Explorers

Sitting up past midnight, we search our mind for facts,
parting long grasses of the past for long-forgotten pacts
of secrets kept from parents and long-forgotten games:
“New Orleans” and “Send ‘Em” *. We comb our minds for names.

Of talents left to childhood, like flips off monkey bars.
Adventures dreamed on rooftops and the back seats of cars.
Favorite childhood dresses and jokes pulled on our folks.
Afternoons in Mack’s Cafe, sipping on our Cokes.

Hot beef sandwiches at Fern’s and running up the stairs
to avoid Mom’s fly swatter aimed at our derrieres.
Childhood dramas staged in trees or in our backyard lawn.

Teenage slumber parties that stretched out into dawn.

We journey through old albums, searching photos for
any tiny detail that will open up a door.
Each time I come to visit, we remember a bit more
on these safaris of the mind that we both adore.

*These are the names of childhood games. Did anyone else play them?

For the Word of the Day challenge: Exploring

When My Sister Plays the Piano

 

jdb photo

This is  a poem written when I visited my sister in the first stages of memory loss. it is a bittersweet memory that I shared with only a few of you five years ago when I first started my blog but which very few people read, judging from the number of views and “likes.” This memory, as most are, is bittersweet.

When My Sister Plays the Piano

The first notes, beautiful and true, float like a memory up the stairs.
In the week I’ve been here in her house with her, she has not played the piano
and so I thought her music was gone like her memory of what day it is
or whether I am her sister, her daughter or an unknown visitor.

Yet on this morning after her 76th birthday celebration,
music slips like magic from the keys: song after song
from “Fur Elise” to a sweet ballad I don’t know the name of—
sure and correct at first,
then with a heartfelt emotion we had both forgotten.

“Midnight Concerto,”
“Sunrise, Sunset”—
song after song
expressed
in an unfaltering language—
some synchronicity of mind and hand
her brain has opened the door to.

While I listen, time stands still for me
as it has for her so often in the past few years
as yesterday and today shuffle together to
crowd out all consideration of future fears.

For ten minutes or more, she segues
from melody to melody
with no wrong note.
Then “Deep Velvet,”
a song she has played from memory
so many times,
dies after twenty-four notes.
Like a gift held out and snatched away,
I yearn for it, pray she’ll remember.

After an uncharted caesura, her music streams out again,
sweet and sure, for a staff or two—
the sheet music giving her a guide her brain so often can’t.
But after a longer pause, I know it is lost
like the thread of so many conversations.
A hiccup of memory, folding itself away.

“Come And Worship” chimes out
like the tolling of a bell.
The wisp of the old hymn, two phrases only—
before it, too, fades.

That sudden muffled sound.
Is it a songbook displaced from its stand as she searches for another;
or the lid of the piano, quietly closing on yet another partial memory?

 

The Ragtag prompt today was memories.

Bewildered: Gray Walls with Boxes

 

Gray Walls with Boxes

Once I knew words that fit together.
Now my mind still has the answers,
but rarely lets me in to find them.

People who seem to know me
bring pizza in a box
and we eat it in front of another box I’ve forgotten the name for––
a small world with other people moving in it that I don’t know.
Sometimes words appear in a ribbon on the bottom edge of that box
and I wonder if I understood them
if they ‘d tell me what I’m supposed to do.

On the walls are other flat boxes
with people frozen in them
and I think it is my fault.
There is something I am supposed to be doing.
There is something I am supposed to be doing.
“They are your pictures, Mother.
They’re there for decoration—
for you to enjoy,”
a woman tells me
when I ask her
if she’d like to take them
home with her.

I don’t belong here.
My high school boyfriend
must be wondering
where I’ve gone
and my daughter is as confused as I am,
claiming to be her own child;
and then one day my sister comes
and I have to laugh because they all
look so much alike—
my sister and her niece and her niece’s daughter
whom they try to convince me
are my daughter and my granddaughter––
so many layers of daughters
that it is too hard to keep them
all in mind.

But then that floats away
and I am trying to remember
when I am leaving this hotel
and I feel I’m not suited to run for president
although all those people
cheering at that big convention in that little box
want me to––
that little box they turn off and on each day,
sometimes before or after I’m ready
to have it turned off.

And they take me to that large room
where all those silent older people sit.
I do not want to go into this room,
but I am lucky, and we move through it.
Someone’s daughters have come to put me
into a box that moves us through the world
without walking. At first, I am so surprised by it,
then I remember what it is
but can’t remember the word for it.
As we sit in it, the world moves by
too fast, scaring me, and I try
to weep unnoticed.
But then they take me out of it,
give me popcorn
and lead me into a very large room
with many people sitting down
and an entire wall with larger people
moving on it, and it is so confusing, like déjá vu,
for I remember being in a room like this before,
but I don’t know if I’m supposed to
make them do something other
than what they are doing
or if I’m already controlling them with my thoughts
or if I’m supposed to be
up there on the wall with them.
I can’t remember whether these people
on either side of me are my sisters
or my children or strangers,
sitting chair after chair down the long aisle.

Most days, I am so sad all day long,
but sometimes my real self
comes to visit and I think,
how did I become a martyr like my grandmother
and why can’t I stop myself from crying, just like her?
One gray wall meets another at the corner
and I’m sure
that I am being punished
for things I did but can’t remember.

That blank face
in the mirror
has me in it,
but I can’t get out
and for a moment I know, then forget
that this is why I cry
and cry and cry
and cry.

 

I think the deep stage of bewilderment that Alzheimer’s brings us to is the biggest fear of many of us who are over the age of sixty.  I’ve written poems about earlier and later stages of this dread disease, but  this poem describes as closely as was possible for me the way my sister Betty seemed to be feeling at a couple of different stages of her dementia.  Her delusion that it was she who was running for president the year Obama was elected, her befuddlement over the television and later over the art on the walls, over the identity of family members, and finally her astonishment over being in a moving car and at the movies.  This may have marked the last time we took her out of the care facility where she still resides. I went to see her a few months ago and still plan to write about her present state. Anyone who has a loved one in some stage of this heartbreaking disease will know haw hard it is to imagine how they may be feeling and how equally hard it is to write about it.  That is why I keep putting it off. I’m running this poem again after five years because it seems to fit today’s prompt, which is bewildered.

Double Betrayal

 

Double Betrayal

Her thoughts in parting were most candid,
her emotions, clearly branded
on her face. They reprimanded
him for how he cruelly stranded
her within their love affair—
how he left her standing there
alone, heartbroken, vulnerable.
How he’d burst her true love’s bubble.
Thus was her earlier promise broken
before a single word was spoken
when she met them, face to face,
engaged in intimate embrace—
that one who was to be her mister
with her faithless younger sister.

 

The prompt today is candid.