for my kid sister
I am moving up in the world my love.
I am a liturgy climbing the chambers of a small church
glowing among fireflies on a muddy roadside.
When I go out walking, I ride waves
of starlings that bend into the dusk
melting around me like a strawberry-flavored candy.
With the confidence of a backstreet boxer,
I have learned to let handsome strangers bandage my bruises,
search alleyways for my missing teeth,
pay me large sums of money for the show I put on.
Am I wrong, then, to want to take
with me our unwashed nights, a carton of expired milk,
a stone against which you tripped
and fell, neck first, on a broken glass bottle
and one or two cockroaches?
Or the occasional letter from the government
denying us something
we desperately need and that almost breaks my will.
Just as at a Jewish wedding one breaks glass
to remember, at the heights of love,
what was lost—the destruction
of the first temple—I want the wastes
and the old fears, so that I can reach out into the night,
crowded with washing boards
and piles of soiled laundry,
to arrive in the bungalow where we first met.
Your curls, knotted, clumped against your skin;
at first, your breathing frightened me,
it seemed to me an accordion pulled,
reluctantly, back and forth
through a tiny slit, when it was just
a birdsong making its way
in the dark to greet a new neighbor.
I learned to sing back to you, walk you to school,
feed you. And once,
using my entire paycheck
as a soda fountain girl in Roll-N-Roaster,
we rode horses on the beach.
And I learned that the terms of love
are always the same—
that of a bird that falls from a tree.
No matter what
stop what you are doing
to gather me, keep me,
and when the time comes, bury me.