Mirri Glasson-Darling

MY SISTER, our tall blue spruce was not enough

though it had weathered windstorms and steel-wool tornados

the rat’s nests of our hair, and stood—Christmas lights

gleaming from our father’s lone cardboard cut-out of a star.

The day it finally lay down its branches—you lay without

drawstrings or shoelaces; silver-ringed spirals stripped

from the spines of your notebooks and our father stood

at the foot of your hospital bed with his arms helpless

at his sides. I watched the bark peel away from the crumbling

halls of our parents as they waited, knowing something

horrible must have happened to you, but unsure of what or why.

I would not dare speak the word then. It was too small

to mean such invasion, too strange a sound to touch

tongue to palette and bring to lips. All I dared to think

was just: That Boy. How I wished I were a son so I might

go and do what brothers do instead of daughters, grinding my molars

to sand as I held your secret, clenched tight between my teeth.