By: Melody Leming-Wilson
With our windswept faces pressed to the future,
theirs behind hard-driven glass,
I change course—and reluctantly let slip your hand.
You gun the T-bird
and complete the beautiful arc
through the blank, blue sky while,
always your little sister, I watch.
The tires spray gravel; exhaust gushes,
and I stand, while you roar to the edge.
I envy your brave trajectory—
the car still rising—as in the movie you
(probably) never saw:
The frame freezes; the audience doesn’t see the fall—
but I do.
Decades after South Street,
(our chemical summer), after my childhood—
your junior partner in every
nefarious pursuit—after drifting apart, after
accusations, manipulations, and the
inexorable pressure of time; becoming, all of us,
paragons of potential: the prizes of battle—
the trophies, the stories, the presumptions—the scars.
After traveling hard and the stunned attendance to the priest,
at last, all in the same room, we paused:
One sister down, her ashes interred,
we sought to staunch the flow of time—
the inevitable widening of our arcs.
Two reunions a year—doled out in turn—
and you, always unlucky, drew the short straw.
Finally, a holiday with you in the driver’s seat.
Finally, you as an equal.
And you rose to the occasion. Torn between
imposition and honor,
you painted the walls and hauled out the clutter,
created much from little, and opened your
to the disapproving hoard, the
disapproving, undeserving hoard.
But what did it cost you? What did it cost?
It was a feast of love and comedy.
The five of us (one sister down)
rose to your feet (I’m going to bed)
We tidied up and dissipated—
And now we are suspended (two sisters down) like
insects in amber—
and you will never fall.
Melody Leming-Wilson awoke last spring (as if from a dream) to remember that she is a poet. She has one Academy of American Poets Award and a number of small press publications from early in her teaching career. Recently, late in her teaching career, she has poems appearing in Mojave He[art], Poeming Pigeon, and Windfall. She lives and teaches in Portland, Oregon.
The relationship between her life and death to Thelma and Louise came to me in one of those flashes—sometimes those work out for me; sometimes they don’t, but I couldn’t let this one go. I originally meant only to address my sister’s continuing on in her lifestyle after I veered off, but the poem kept going. I suddenly found myself trying to describe the differences in our various paths—some “successful,” some not. This sister truly had never hosted a dinner before the one she hosted a few months before her death. She felt rejected by the family all of her life.
I have tried to divide this poem into two for clarity. I have tried to remove the parentheticals. But it always falls flat. So, I decided to let it write its own story. Thank you for reading it."