“Our Other Sister” by Jeffrey Harrison
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
Our Other Sister
The cruelest thing I did to my younger sister wasn't shooting a homemade blowdart into her knee, where it dangled for a breathless second before dropping off, but telling her we had another, older sister who'd gone away. What my motives were I can't recall: a whim, or was it some need of mine to toy with loss, to probe the ache of imaginary wounds? But that first sentence was like a strand of DNA that replicated itself in coiling lies when my sister began asking her desperate questions. I called our older sister Isabel and gave her hazel eyes and long blonde hair. I had her run away to California where she took drugs and made hippie jewelry. Before I knew it, she'd moved to Santa Fe and opened a shop. She sent a postcard every year or so, but she'd stopped calling. I can still see my younger sister staring at me, her eyes widening with desolation then filling with tears. I can still remember how thrilled and horrified I was that something I'd just made up had that kind of power, and I can still feel the blowdart of remorse stabbing me in the heart as I rushed to tell her none of it was true. But it was too late. Our other sister had already taken shape, and we could not call her back from her life far away or tell her how badly we missed her.
from Feeding the Fire, 2001
Sarabande Books, Louisville, KY
Copyright 2001 by Jeffrey Harrison.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of Sarabande Books from Feeding the Fire, 2001. Copyright 2001 by Jeffrey Harrison. For further permissions information, contact Sarabande Books, 2234 Dundee Road, Suite 200, Louisville, KY 40205.
About the Poet
Jeffrey Harrison (1957- ) is the author of seven poetry collections, including Into Daylight (Tupelo Press, 2014). He was born in Cincinnati and educated at Columbia University.
Learn more about Jeffrey Harrison at The Poetry Foundation.