SISTER, WE SAY
after three years of recovery, over twelve years of falling skin, you tell me
you are writing a book of it. You, my sister, my other bone, my spirit's
handbag, carve onto the page, this story which you have made.
You want me to hear it, you want the seven early pages to empty into me
their silt. I say, read, and you do, furling back the beginning, soothing the edges
with skinny hands I hear you say, twelve smuggled cups lined like tiny soldiers
under your bed, water weight, the scale and her arm, you and your tricks.
the nurses in their steady white. They could see you as you could not see
yourself, the shrinking visage, your bones entry over time, more clearly,
the jutting knobs, the crevices open mouths.
Yes, my sister, you write it from your end now. You have heard the poems
which mourned you, the early don't dies, the closet, the dark satin mouth,
the flesh evaporating in air. And the new one, the-- she is my sister,
The nurse, the Catapult Minnesota, the Wisconsin woman. I say
try to count her, you can't, she moves on feet like anyone.
But you bring me back. You carry me on your shoulders like a big sister
could. You say, mom said, dad said and after-- things I never heard of.
I hold my breath for what I do know. My voice rising with your voice.
You saying "you're dumb," me saying "well you're fat." On the pages, what
will hide in the corner, shivering, what will come to point?
I remember. I was there when Mom weighed you. I was little sister. I stood
watch. Under my skull, in the darkness of flesh, I could see the weights,
solemn black metal, hard, un-jarred in the space your breasts had left.
Yes, you hid them in your bra, ankle weights, their steel nipples un-fed. My mouth
closed over words which sat, bead-like, in the dark of my cheek.
Or the other, the-- you will not remember. The long night you could not
sleep. I was home on a visit, next to you on the floor. Outside the night
would not end. She sat on her heels rocking, the windows stretched up and up.
You took pills as mom brought them. The couch was very still. You were saying no.
No. Not the electric shock treatment, ECT, no. NO. No. And mom took me by the arm,
"get her to, get her, she needs it, you don't know what it's like, it might save her."
If I were a good sister, would I have taken you, wrapped in white gauze,
out by foot, past the houses lined up, past the grass in the marsh, on into
the what? I did not do it. I can not say. You tossed through the night.
In the morning, five AM, we took you, 65 pounds, to the hospital, where I held
your fingers as if they were mine, until they wheeled you off.
Judy, my sister, your brown eye, your body rising to breathe,
have I told you lately, hello. I am glad you are here. You were the one
I thought had been lost. My sister, so sorry, your fingers, your voice down the hall,
I have carried you under my skin, so gentle, so gingerly. Have you heard me?
I have passed you my high school boyfriends, one at a time, rivulets of tears,
I have gone with you into that room, my head, your head, let me in, let me in, let me stop it,
let me be, you, let me stop, let me go, let me come. home. sister. mine.
By Anne C. Sargent copyright 1995
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