My Sister Carrying Her Darkness Like Silver
BY AVIA TADMOR
That summer her womanhood was already standing
with her in every room. Its new fingers
running against the long edge
of the kitchen counter, the pool’s just-painted lining
& springboard. All summer it followed her
throughout our cousins’ house,
leaving behind the warmth of an animal’s body
in grass. The animal of her
reaching already & always the question
of children, the animals of children, how do they live.
When my sister climbed onto the springboard
that summer, her womanhood scattered
in sparks behind her, her wrists flutelike
& practicing levity. The cypresses stood thick in their green;
our cousins suspected nothing. The girl gone now
& I am thinking, what must it have been like
to be ill & rising, what soar
precedes the sinking. When my sister jumped
off the white springboard, she was a child’s body
passing a row of neighborhood condominiums:
each house like our house,
cluttered in its small evening & dimmed
in its own way. But when she rose out
of the water, her hair was black
& long, handed down to her
from the Jewish women of Bukhara.
She cut it. Her braids lay like black callas
on the bottom of our cousins’ pool.
Tonight I see it from the distance of rainfalls
in another country; a small figure
carrying her darkness like silver, tight-lipped
& misspelled. She looks into the eye of her torturer
as if beauty could only be beauty
but the night, her night, will not give.
I learned this much from my sister:
madness takes the blameless
& rids them
of their most graceful possessions first.
October, her hair grew again & was slick,
undirected, the first fur of animals.
I was thirteen. I told no one
about obsession, how an evening cluttered with footsteps
is only the ill-lit dance
of the lost. About the girl with thin wrists
dragging the night
by its terrible antlers through her attic bedroom
until sorrow blossoms
red peonies between the wooden floor boards.
Then it was winter & I told no one:
how beauty is beauty
is hunger. The peonies extending red
feeder-roots; first anger, then hunger. Then song.