Things sometimes fall apart
Among sisters and brothers,
No matter what they once were.
Childhood picnics and dreamy games,
Memories of trips with Dad,
Since Mom was tired of us.
We would climb Appalachian peaks
Or drive to look at the Mayflower.
Every summer there was a golden week
A lakeside cottage and all-day swims
In crystal water, becoming mermaids.
But time passes and bitterness accrues.
Imagined slights grow like slow tumors,
Never excised but nurtured by some.
I go to college and am freed
From the poison of ignorant rage,
From the creeping depression left
Like diesel fog on an endless floor.
Four or five years of delight pass
With only hints here or there
Of a sibling’s misery at home.
Of a once close sister, Maggie,
Who is ignored and never loved
By any man she pursues.
She blames me for it, for reasons
I have yet to fathom.
Of a brother, Francis, deluded, drugged,
Steals the family car in a rage
And drives to New York City.
Of Deirdre, the middle sister,
Whose friend who knows men who feed
On her ignorance and rebellion.
Only Susannah tries to rise above
The maelstrom of misery.
I send her to a school far away
And she sheds despair, at least.
Decades drawl, children are born to us,
While the bridge between us, obscured,
Sags and frays under weight of rancor.
Christmas dinners and birthday parties
Turn into chores, invitations kept as scores.
Petty grudges, like acid, sever the bridge
At last, all ties are abandoned.
When we are all grown and scattered,
No one speaking to anyone else,
Unaware, uncaring about the others.
Only Susannah visits me and smiles,
With no ulterior plan for insane revenge,
Or accusations for errant slights.
Her once dark hair is grizzled and wild
And her girlish skin now creased.
But her treacle eyes, “black aggies”,
I used to call them, still shine.
Only Susannah writes a letter,
Wishing us well and
Healing scars made by others,
Returning the word “family”.
To my basket of small treasures,
I carry with me
Into the twilight.