When My Older Sister Visits


I always pretend I have a sister

She’s just out of reach, out of touch
because she took a new job and lives far far away doing the most important things
that help all the people in the most important ways possible.
She’s a master task monster.
And I blame that for taking her far away from me.
So far away that she can’t let me know what she thinks of me,
of what I’ve become.
But she sees me, she knows.

I met my sister once.
That time on a breezy, spring green, grass covered hill
the granite boulders notched into steps
rising up and up and up above the valley floor.
At the top, a hill
a place where lanky limbed pines consulted each other for wisdom.
Their shadowy needles nodded in the wind, or they shake their heads, sighing.

I didn’t know she would be there, didn’t plan it.
A place where our eyes, hers and mine, would surrender to infinite depths of horizon.
I could see for miles.
We could see the rounded backs of giant emerald tortoises paused in thought
on their march across the dewy world.
Or so it seemed that way.
That ancient beasts, enormous, the size of hill tops had fallen asleep when the Earth was new.
–there– hunched in stoney shells
millenia of flora had crept up through cracks in the scutes
and transformed the armored backs into lush forests stitched with vines and ferns.
Their presence impenetrable and utterly lifelike
one after another cascading deeper through translucent veils of sky.
My sister and I

both understood at that instant, in a way we never had before,
our infinite mortality
the piercing reality of being consciously alive
with a knowledge of death

Here we are, a vigil held with primordial hills
who will one day wake
and find our entire existence
a brief and fascinating dream.

We didn’t have to speak of this.
In fact, I couldn’t see or hear her.
And I wonder if she felt my chest clench when I fell to my knees
when my fingers sunk into the damp dirt to grip the roots of grasses
the grasses that grow at the top of the world.

What did she think of my wet face, the gush of tears some kind of sign of something uncontrollable spilling out of me?

She couldn’t say.
But we both knew what we knew.
And I could breathe, gasp even, the relief
to be in the presence of her silence.

Years of my life I had berated her memory.
Unleashed my well-worn demons on her.
All the lost pieces to the puzzles.
All the lost pieces to the girl.
The unfinished me, the ideal person just out of my reach.

Why did you leave so early?
Before I knew anything? Before I felt safe to figure it out on my own?
Before I met you?

All those lost things you could have found

if you had lived.
I would be different

if you had lived.

But she only occupied an infant-sized space in this world for three months
before an accident happened, took away her breath, her little life
and changed everything.

I came along, shortly after, born into the wet, messy grief of my mother and father
who had just lost a child a year before.

I think Katie’s gift to me was grief.
A powerful loss that never allowed me to feel comfortable.
I always knew she had died. That she was dead.
But I always pretend I have a sister.

She, who came to all the realizations before me.
Racial injustice, legacies of colonial inequality, feminisms, class discrimination,
intersections of identities and communities and the land
love, compassion, and trauma that can be healed.

I imagine that she knew all these things before me,
and she’s just waiting and waiting to meet me again in the quiet.
To greet me there,
in the place where I accept silence.
A petal unfurling in the world
to be
to just be
to listen.

Listening as an act of work, a way to be in the world.
A step towards reconciliation.

I met her that one time
at the top of the world
as I imagined all the listening she’d been doing
and all the things she didn’t have to say.

She just exists, and she knows
that while I will always try be something essentially me and something essentially better
she knows I will be alright.


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