Our Other Sister 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.
from Feeding the Fire, 2001
Sarabande Books, Louisville, KY
Copyright 2001 by Jeffrey Harrison.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced with permission (click for permissions information).