My little sister loved extremes. She stuffed her ears
with sand, chased seagulls
for hours along the shore, desperate to prove
she could catch them.
Grown now, we have switched places.
She shoves her smile, wide as a wingspan,
above her bed in an invisible safe.
There, she stashes her things—
A silver rose, at the end of a rope;
black cat figurines; six kinds of money. Nesting
between nag champa candles: letters
from the first boy who kissed her—locked in,
ruthlessly. My sister is in, but not of,
her body: delicate, belly laced with ulcers.
Her brain, too, mulls its fate:
without medicine, the tumor would drub
her breasts clean of its milk. This dares
my sister to live, but life, she thinks, is unsafe.
She tells me the artist’s life is no life
for a mother like me, and we halve.
This rift has stolen years.
I miss the girl who refused
to hitch graves to her back,
who danced in the brief smoke
of each moment. I miss the girl who gave
her things away.
If laughter is the closest distance,
then what of tears? I want to tell her:
Gather your talismans
while the sun is out and waiting. Run.