“For You, My Sister”

For You, My Sister,
On the Impending Occasion of Your Thirteenth Birthday

I tried to write this as if for my future daughter,
all doting and sentimental,
but it didn’t feel right
It is easy to write to a person so perfect
she can only be imagined
To hear your breathing in the room beside mine,
to watch your fingers drum the spine
of a Spanish textbook
and sit here to write to you, well,
that’s a bit harder

I watch you from the room where you sleep, now,
where you keep my bed warm
and fill my desk drawers with your things
while I call another place home
I can see a sliver of you
between the peeling paint chip kisses
of my doorframe and yours
You look peaceful
You won’t stay that way, but you shouldn’t —
life will never be as exciting as it is now,
here, on the threshold of thirteen
My teenage years are waning but I feel it,
even now, the slight muting of things
I keep expecting to wake up, I guess —
to go back to the volatile but exhilarated self
I used to be, not long ago

But if there is one thing I’ve learned, sister,
it’s that we’re never what or who
we think we are

I need to tell you that you will never be
thin enough, or pretty enough,
or smart or funny or crass enough for the men
in suits in offices who
decide how you should look and feel
So don’t try to be
Don’t buy anything from the “women’s magazine” section
or the Walgreens’ cosmetics aisle
or the ideas of your boyfriends —
and you will have boyfriends, I am sure of it
You are slender and goofy and whip-smart and vibrant,
all the things that make you impossible to live with
but very easy to miss

Do not grow to rely on those boys,
or, later, those men,
because nobody will ever love you as much as you want
They’ll love you a lot — even wholly, maybe —
and maybe as much as they can find it in themselves to give
But they will never make up
for something lacking inside you

Words, sister, are all I have ever offered,
but not all I might be persuaded to give
For now I can only present to you this poem,
folded up in an on-sale birthday card,
which maybe fooled you into thinking you got cash like your brother
He’ll probably have spent it by Friday
on school snacks or sneakers,
and I’m sorry this won’t get you cafeteria cookies
or new high-tops —
I guess I’ll get you some if you want ’em —

but I’m just hoping this may earn back a little piece of the girl
who looked up at me with all the love in the world,
back when I was six and you were newly born,
tiny and red and exactly as perfect as you are today,
looking up for the first time at this person
you will come to call “sister”

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2 thoughts on ““For You, My Sister”

  1. Why don’t more people comment on your poetry? I know they do in the youtube videos but to me poetry is always strongest when read. This is beautiful. I saw you preform it on youtube but I prefer reading it better. I love your poems please keep writing and preforming and submitting. You are very talented and I am very jealous. Keep writing poems, you move people.

  2. This really is excellent, Amanda. I love the images you’re able to conjure up.

    I love this:

    “To hear your breathing in the room beside mine,
    to watch your fingers drum the spine
    of a Spanish textbook”

    The details just make it. Simple details that make the scene feel real to me as a reader.

    And this:

    “all the things that make you impossible to live with
    but very easy to miss”

    A great summation of a character.

    I have no doubt that your sister will appreciate this now and in years to come.

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