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TomPeters

Dear Sarah

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Dear Sarah,

One: Postcards From Your Flesh and Blood

You, my older sister, were born dead.

Tiny, blue, and cold.

No warning, no reason.

A year later, to universal relief and joy,

I came, kicking and screaming.

The medical chart for Baby Boy Bond noted,

“conjoined supernumerary spiritual appendage”.

Telling the parents was “contraindicated”.

Two lifelines line my palm, one faint and one strong.

Doctors often misdiagnose a heart murmur,

because they hear through the stethoscope

both my loud lub-dub,

and a little echo trailing after.

You and I, my sister Sarah, share one life,

I the broad pane of glass,

And you the spirit etched thereon

Eyes burning black with feverish death

Bony hands gripping Holy Scripture

You’ve torn out every chapter but Lamentations.

Enough, big sister.

I sing of peace, and love

The heralds of the soon-to-be

Speak of a redemption

Only so far denied.

In this, if in anything, I believe.

Two: Plea for Reconciliation

Sister, confess your mysteries to me.

Let me purchase from you,

By my industrious silence,

All the unworldly treasures

You hoard and shield from light.

Touch my fingertips.

Read my open eyes,

Soft blue and green,

Pupils ringed with gold,

You see no judge,

Nor petty magistrate.

I would not presume

To badger you with

Mere law,

Right and wrong,

When there is so much more

Breaking beneath your ice,

Beauteous, bountiful monstrosities,

Cannibal gods,

Platonic forms,

Poison spiders gleaming on produce.

I’ll forgive you,

Oh, everything and more,

Just know that I,

Like you,

Burn with the ghost of a flame.

Three: The Childhood of the Living and the Dead

Dear Sister, do you recall on childhood’s edge,

You guided my hand and filled the world

With crayon icons of the monstrous?

Old souls

Hatched from tabernacles

Of no line, no modification, no descent

Bearing the thumbprint of the Living God

A mark indelible

From before the first shuddering intake of breath

Our father and mother made.

Monsters:

One had eyes like shoeshine;

One slept at the bottom of the sea like a concrete ton;

One danced across the marshlands and lonely places;

One buried the dead in the lands with no name;

One wrote intolerable family updates;

One brandished its loss like a rapier;

One was known only to itself,

a secret, like a violin without strings.

We thought ourselves among their confederacy, you and I,

But in the winter darkness, small and sorrowful,

We huddled together under

The unrelieved crucifix

White flags hoisted high

Pining for the erupting miracle

That would sweeten, mend, and free us

To simply chase fireflies

To simply rule the world.

But when we came to the front of the line

And the Host was raised to our tongues

We vomited it out, wracked with wrong

No priestly comforts here.

Four: You, in the Negatives

You were there in the first flickers

The brittle yellowing paper of my first memory,

Helping our little sister escape her playpen,

The cherry chapstick of my long ago first kiss,

The black-and-blue Little League bruise our father was so

proud I played through,

Our alcoholic uncles performed wild magic

Howled at the moon;

Pinched great-aunts, saintly and savage

Told in lip-smacking certainty

Of eternal Hell.

The gray-green seas of lazy summers,

Even red-hot wickedness, greenstick fractures of the mind.

But especially at night I felt your fingers on my heart

Even in the seedling years

Every day was a new day

Task-crawling, burden-crammed

Life, and life’s caterwauling din;

But there is only one night

The pause to which we ceaselessly return.

We owe debts to the night that we can never repay.

We could never grow but in the recess of the world,

When work runs out, and petty tyrannies take uneasy rest,

Slave-catchers fearing the wild, dim landscape,

Too close to dream,

Too near that otherworldly judgment.

We have so much old business to hear

In our little, anarchic hours.

And, Sarah, we know why

All prophecies are written on pillowcases

And the symbols mean “forever”.

Five: A Pilgrim Writes to the Delivered

It was appointed

In the waiting rooms of more important people

That you should start at the end

And that I should be a pilgrim to that place

Taking the hard pilgrimage

On skinned palms, knees bloodied and bent

Crunching down on gravel and particles of broken green glass

Cars honking, incredulous, screaming for speed,

Down Route 206

I'm always approaching, never reaching

Mile Zero, my sister’s other home.

At night, following man-made lights

Suspended in space

On off on off on off

Spiraling out

Repeating and repeating

Lesson One to the uncomprehending moon.

I'm inching past

Inflatable King Kong roadside displays

All night neon diners

I'm rummaging through my pockets

Paying another small town holdup toll

I'm chanting childhood rumors

Of the all-engulfing sea.

And when I come

Sister, we will baptize one another

In the tears we shed for others

And tears others shed for us.

Six: An Answer to Objections

Sister, you remonstrate me

That I have lived and you have not

That I do not bear the cross of a life that only could have been

Even if my life were not yours

There are so many mes as stillborn as my sister.

I visited the Me Hall of Fame

In Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

Brushed elbows

With legends of me

To which I

Am only a footnote.

Took in breathless exhibits:

The origins, future of me

Me in popular culture, film star.

Toured the burnished plaques

Like third-degree relics

the richest me,

the strongest me,

me the lion-hearted,

the me that went to Japan to be a sensation.

In the blistering cold

Of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

In the dead of Carbon County

There is nothing for anyone to do

But pay their $16.95 and

Ruminate on all the things

I could have, should have been.

Sarah, we are all

Rebuked by times unlived.

Many shrug and smile.

But happiness doesn’t claim every child for her own.

The people of the tribes

Made each stranger say the word “shibboleth”

And he who lisped was slain as an enemy.

Make you or I say “happiness”

And any would detect instantly we were not to this word born.

But still I fumble with it

Like a knot of traps

Unhooking its abundant intricacies with your

Sometimes patient, laughing, collaboration.

Seven: Our Hope for Future Days

Therefore, I unjustly ask you

Be thou patient yet a while more.

We spread blankets on Palmer Square,

And eat end-of-the-world gelato

The inky night grows

To gunpowder black

White lights blazing through pinpricks

A hush

The clock runs counterclockwise

Constellations break apart

Come back together in new old patterns

The mansions of the heavens

Regress to astral hovels from which they came.

And from the ashes

The mighty glowing empires reform.

We lay back

And drink in

The sudden reflux of the ancient past

What seemed to be forever

Was only for signs and seasons

The hours wane

All come to dust

We brace

For the very beginning

At the very end.

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