To my little sister, dying

When it all started to slip,
you crumbled on the overstuffed sofa and cried,
My hands look so old. Saliva stretched across
the quiet chasm of your mouth. Sobs stormed through.
I reached for you, crumbling too, trying to shake
the feeling you believed your life
was not what it was supposed to be,
that your husbands and your church didn’t deliver
what you were promised if you were good
(which you were not, you wearily presumed).
And so you took what you got
from doctors and priests in dark suits
and it was not enough to heal you.

Blazing, I desperately willed my muscled love Enough
to shine on all your night secrets and patriarchal shame
with such brilliant unflinching beams
that tumors would turn
from your flesh toward my light and evaporate
like water in a stagnant desert puddle. I, too, am naïve,
to think I could reach into such rock sheltered shadow,
undo or improve the gorgeous geology of your being.

How could I move the craggy Utah bulges,
shift the polished slots of sky above your callused years
of fear of not attaining celestial glory, salve
the endless pinpricks of husbandly, venereal betrayals,
ease the guilty infidelities of your throbbing
wanting more than disease or dependency from
the men for whom you saved your lust and mud.

Can any sister do this for her sister? I wanted to.
My blood cried for it, but I am not light or even wind!
Our curving walls are too bent to bend light around,
and the wind just carves us deeper. So I am lost
in endless slot canyons, crouching here,
in the shade, in your hand. I won’t budge.
When you leave these rocks behind
and your cloudy eyes suddenly soften into shine,
may the innocence of your stubborn love finally
rise from the pores of your hands like vapor,
prismatic through the sky, casting paths of wet light.

First published in Barnwood International Poetry Magazine, 2008

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