I told her to look up
all the definitions of the word
, and choose her favorite one.
a unit of measure
equal to four inches
used especially for the height
This is a stupid prompt, she says.
This year the fifteen-year-old girls wear
choker necklaces and off-the-shoulder tops
which both go well with that timeless outer layer
of cool dismissal
that protects you from anyone else
suspecting you care too much.
I sent her the notebook
because her therapist
and the district attorney
and the guidance counselor
and our mother--everyone tells her to write.
But she cannot write about that.
What I mean to say is
hand it to the page, shift the weight of it
little by little until you don't carry it all.
But what I say is
Imagine yourself as a flower. What kind of flower would you be
Make up a knock-knock joke
Imagine the contents of your closet as a city. Who is the
What do you think is the opposite of "father"? Think hard. You
can't say mother
Make a list of things that are blue
My list: Her list (as I imagine it):
Blueberries the sky
a bruise swimming to surface Kool-Aid
Virginia mountains eyeliner
the ring of flame beneath the pan the veins in my wrist
one line for no baby, two lines for yes the lines of this paper
my sister draws on her wrist
when really she wants to touch it
with a blade
(fine white scars
marking their tissue wings)
If her sorrow were a horse
I would not be able to reach my hands
high enough to measure it, to say,
it is this many hands high,
here is where it ends.
I will have to go on placing one hand,
then the other, careful to touch the heel of one palm
to the crest of my other hand's tallest finger,
Careful not to lose count,
not to let the fierce snorting and stamping of Sorrow
distract me from my task. I place my hands
against the hot sleek coat,
the unbelievable passages of muscle
that ripple beneath my touch.
Eleven, twelve, the tallest horse alive
is twenty hands tall,
but Sorrow is taller. Twenty-one, twenty-two.
I tell my sister when we reach the top,
Sorrow will carry her
to where she wants to go,
they will gallop across the earth.
But we both know
We both know Sorrow may outlast us
So we must not lose count
We must not remove our hands