I recently had my students writing poems inspired from old photos of themselves and their families, and I decided to complete the assignment myself.
LITTLE SISTER by Philip Hoy
Send pictures, he said, for the memorial.
So, I found this one of you standing in a field of
burnt grass, skinny arms lifting the wooden bat,
your hair, strawberry blond, parting in feathery
waves from your face, the freckles dusting your
nose, the sun’s glow warming your apple cheeks,
your lip-gloss smile.
I don’t remember when you arrived, if I was jealous,
or if you cried much. I do remember reaching beneath
the couch to rescue your Barbie from Rex’s mouth. And
when the others left to school we would pretend it was
Christmas eve and I’d stuff a pillowcase with toys and
ho ho into the room to show you what I’d brought. Then
we’d tuck one of your baby dolls beneath your blouse
and pretend you were pregnant. You’d push. I’d pull.
And plunk, the baby was out.
In middle school you said I let my friends make fun of
you. I don’t remember that, and why would I want to?
I must have left you behind, but high school was hard
those first two years, and lonely. We argued a lot.
You would kick me with those brown boots that
zipped to the knee and lock me out of the house.
I had to run around back and jump the wall.
Still, you refused to let me in.
Finally, you were a freshman, so tough, so cool with
your Ozzy Osbourne t-shirts and match-burn pencil liner
blackening your eyes, already suspended for slamming
a girl’s face into a desk in the back of your algebra class.
I walked you to softball practice after school that day.
We got there early and had to climb the chain-link fence.
Little miss know-it-all, but I really needed to talk.
Don’t be stupid, you said. Just tell her, you said.
So I took your advice.
Sometimes when the house is quiet and dark with nothing
left to distract me, all at once I remember you are gone,
and then it hits me, a great and sudden weight like
bricks tumbling down on my chest. I fall asleep
sad, not wanting to push them off.