Once, my very best darling, the sea
and the land were all one mass
and the light was confused and hadn’t found
a place to rest. And, Megan, love,
my sister’s eyes were not yet there to hold it all
together since she hadn’t yet been born so when
the world dropped out from under us and no one,
not the on-calls with their CAT scans, not
the sovereign souls who monitor
the twilit room where newborns come to die
or live, when no one could tell us if you
would be one of the lucky ones able to
walk and speak and only this, the one
unstinted blessing fate had given us to
give you was a sister in whose eyes you were
the sun and moon, it meant we all no matter
what befell us all
had solid ground. Pity the part
we think we do on purpose.
When Karen was dying and books had shut
their doors to her, she could still make out the
puzzle of knit and purl. I’m keeping it simple,
she said, although the pattern
emerging beneath her fine hands did not
look simple to me. An
A. A B. An alphabet. And all in the single
color, milk. The letters distinguished
by only the altered stitchwork so
the nursery would be beautiful.
Whichever of the children has a baby first,
she said, she loved
the future, no matter she wouldn’t be there.
Second-born. As fateful as the transit
to light and air or so you’ve often tried
to teach me I will never properly understand.
But I know
how the hair at your temples curls in
summer when the air is moist. As if
she’d been returned to me.
I must have had some under-the-radar
notion even then when we were children how
that little looseness threw
my petty masteries in the shade. And so
the joy of it was lost on me. Till you.
I’m the only person living who
remembers her childhood curls.