Candace Hartsuyker

Sister


A truth about my sister: I cannot remember the last time
she cried. Was it when she scraped her knee when she was ten,

riding her bike like a daredevil, hands in the air? Or was it
when she was twelve, after she broke her arm,

climbing a fence? Or was it when she was sixteen, when we
went camping and I plucked spiky cactus barbs from her hands?

Once my sister was the sun and I was the moon. When we were young,
she taught me how to do the two feet basic jump rope.

She never made fun of me even though she could do side to side,
front to back, criss-cross, scissors and double under and I only knew one.

At the zoo or the park we always walked side by side. We would line up our fingers
and press our palms together, entranced by the sameness of our hands.

My sister will not cry. Her face smooth as stone,
she stares at nothing as she brushes her teeth.

The mirrored cabinets are open, reflecting a million faces
of my sister, and all of them are the same.

I once read that the maternal voice is communicated
through the abdomen or through the vibration of vocal chords.

Babies pick up on their mother’s voices when they are still in the womb,
and I think about how sisters are not the same as mothers and daughters or mothers and sons.

At night she sleepwalks, fingers brushing the walls, but she does not talk to me. I remember
the first time I went cave diving, how I was in awe of the vast immenseness of space

how the darkness was not just shadows, but blue and purple and black.
And I close my eyes and try to imagine the world the way she sees it, walls

closing in on her, to a smaller and smaller space, the intensity of colors,
spiraling and blurring like an oil painting of a sunset,

how she sees no past, no present, no future, just guilt squeezing her throat
like a scarf, and I finally understand what anxiety feels like to her:

a pile of ropes in my stomach, coiled and knotted,
a relentless murmur of hissing snakes.

 

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Candace Hartsuyker is a first-year fiction student in McNeese State University’s MFA Program. She has been published in Foliate Oak, Foxglove Journal, The Ginger Collect, Former Cactus and Anti-Heroin Chic.

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