My Sister – A Poem


My Sister is a Daughter
Somewhere in the beginning
I’m sure our parents wanted a son
Perhaps just not the son they got
They didn’t really need a second child
(After her, no-one could be anything but second)
First born, first place, first refusal, always first
And always best
Even in my heart (so I could hardly begrudge them that)
But in her heart she did begrudge them
For my sake and her own

My Sister is a Goddess
Our parents became adept at counting
Her prizes, (the praise), her awards, (the awe)
And I have to give them this
They never asked why I couldn’t be more like her
(They never cared that much)
They kept the abacus out for me, too
Thirteen years, thirteen black canvases, thirteen failures
Carried with pride from the studio
‘Oh, no, dear,’ my mother corrected, ‘that’s fourteen.’
She always failed my tests

My Sister is a Friend
Parental disinterest is hard to grow up with
But she ensured I was still able to grow
I’d like to be able to say I don’t care
I’d like to be able to say I hate them
But I can’t and I don’t
So I block them out and think only of her
Of the shadow she cast for me to live in
It swallowed me whole
But it was warm enough for survival
She made sure of that

My Sister is a Genius
The years between us left little room
Still comparisons were made
But favouritism was never part of the school curriculum
So we were both Sale of the Century candidates
She would be the first woman on the moon
(Her pedestal was practice)
St Valedictorian was her confirmation name
I would teach everyone to paint smiles and remember past
(Hers specifically)
They never thought I needed to be confirmed

My Sister is a Rebel
Ovations were spontaneous and the standard in her world
But as soon as their backs were turned
She cursed them in Latin
They just applauded harder
Her petty rebellion was the only thing she could think of
That they would never applaud
She took the most pleasure in that
But unexpected pleasures coupled with unexpected pains
She never meant to rebel against herself
She never meant to fall in love with a small town boy

My Sister is a Person
She never said she was perfect
It was just assumed by everyone who knew her
But perfection was tiring
Her arms grew heavy holding up the façade
Her soul grew weary of hiding behind it
She started small
By telling him she didn’t love him
By telling him a lie
It was the last she ever told
And the worst

My Sister is a Player
She made plans to leave
To go to a place where she would be just another girl
But I could only interpret them as plans to leave me
I didn’t care if I was nothing to them
As long as she remained to convince me I was everything to her
She promised we would never really be apart
I began storing memories anyway
Never knowing plans to leave would only ever be plans
She began sorting memories, surprising even herself
Immaculacy seemed easily absent from the conception

My Sister is a Failure
She told me before anyone else
‘I’m too young to be an uncle,’ I cried
But she cried harder and longer
And made me promise never to let him know
She confessed to our parents on the stroke of midnight, new year
Champagne had never gone down their throats faster
But they weren’t celebrating, they were drowning
They were living for the first time
Just like the baby
What would the neighbours think?

My Sister is a Rock
They tried to send her away for the duration
But she was determined to see her rebellion through
It didn’t seem so petty anymore
So her pregnancy became a family affair
Parents became imminent grandparents
From shock to shame to sharing in less than a day
Her biggest mistake became just one more source of their pride
And for the first time, public appearances were unconsidered
For moments I entertained my own fleeting hopes for acceptance
In moments they fled to join the remnants of previous hope

My Sister is an Outcast
When she didn’t leave to start a new life
The rumours began
And her thickening waist confirmed it
She had started a new life
The pedestal was quickly wheeled away
All because the statue had dared to cry
But she was never one to back down from a challenge
She would stay to defy them
She would stay to remind her audience of their hypocrisy
Now that everyone knew what sort of girl she really was

My Sister is a Heavyweight
She began to look like she had swallowed a bowling ball
But everything was normal, the doctor told us
Everything was normal
She flaunted her stomach until winter deemed it too cold
She disturbed everyone she intended to
And grew large and happy basking in their disapproval
Basking in my admiration
Basking in her pure joy
And while our mother knitted booties and our father stocked cigars
I committed her to the canvas

My Sister is a Mother
The baby was ready a month before we were
Our parents were missing in action
(Nothing new to me but a first for her)
So I brushed back her hair
Fed her ice chips
And had my hand crushed as contractions consumed her
‘You are my hero,’ she whispered to me
Even as she obeyed orders to push
‘You’re my hero,’ I whispered back
Knowing, not knowing, I’d remember it forever

My Sister is an Angel
I remember the life fading from her daughter
The life fading from her
Her lips turning blue and her hand going slack
The whole town turning out for their guilty goodbye
But most of all I remember him
He still loved her and came back for the funerals
I let him know…
(I broke my promise
Because she had broken hers)
…I told him he was the father

My Sister is a Painting
Immediately our parents began packing
There was nothing to tempt them to remain
Our mother rationalised the irrational
Believing God had decided she was better off with Him
Our father refused the irrational
Believing God could not exist if such things happened
And I refused to let go
Believing God allowed her to watch over me in her portrait
With her Mona Lisa smile (though I knew the secret)
And her everlasting pregnancy


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