Photo of Us On the Cottage Front Porch
We were there then, weren’t we—
everything we turned out to be. I can see
signs, even though we were still inside
ourselves, thinking we could hide.
Cousin Alan hoists tiny barbells, eyes
rolled up in his head, showing only whites:
Look at me! Roger, open-faced but wry
half smile. Cousin Dennis, naked sprite
in the foreground, swimsuit hidden, poised
as if to take off, and did: all that trouble—
prison, palsy, death. Aunt Cleone, employed
happily being the mother, seated, of boys.
And me, standing, in striped halter, arms
behind my back, watching Alan bemusedly—
I use that word because it charms me,
though back then I wouldn’t have agreed.
I did think later—do think—the word
had always been there, and my sister has been
beside me, always, smiling nervously,
tightly holding a left-hand finger within
the right’s grip. She had reason to fear,
the tumor already planted in her brain. All
of us look skinny enough to disappear,
tightly grouped off-center, as if to forestall
our own sliding to the slick white edge.
Poems from No Need of Sympathy