Sisters Mourning

By John Warner Smith

That year, the old sisters wore black in every season,
emptying hope chests like a roof-tearing twister—
so much to keep, so little to pass on. They must have sensed
fear flashing in their uteruses, and wondered

what locust larvae lay dormant beneath the goldenrod,
boring their tender limbs, reminding them
of limpid skies, how bound they were to things living.
Some days they gathered to celebrate the family—

Sundays in the sun, young lovers with nests
full of babies, old lovers with memories cradled
in their brows. Circled beneath a canopy of oaks,
they boiled blue crabs and crawfish in an open flame.

They told their stories with songs and black-and-white
photographs, between shuffled cards and dots counted
on small ivory stones. Now, four hand fans later,
the sisters speak of fallen branches. They take refuge

in beveled mirrors, in quiet times with questions
dangling in a slipknot. From their necks hang
hand-knitted scarves and the albatrosses
of pain not forgiven, salutations written but not sent.

Still, they wait to see patterns quilted for the spring
bazaar, the evergreens blooming in their winters.
Through the lives of their great grandchildren unborn,
they wait, silent about their steep climbs and falls.

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