For my sister
The sun shines bright today as it shone the day you died, when we kept phoning just to hear you breathe, and they said you heard us, too. It’s almost as if you never were, you never wanted to be known, politely pushing us away until we had to go and help you. In that double-wide with years of papers stacked beneath the porch—oh, don’t take the recycling, it can stay there—you piled your kitchen floor with boxes of food and your refrigerator with styrofoam containers of half-eaten food, and the floor by your chair with a knee-high stack of crossword books which I will be doing for years, and your closet with jigsaw puzzles and your drawers with 300 pairs of socks.
But what does this tell anyone of you? Or that your rugs were so full of grit that vacuuming them was like vacuuming the beach?
I am burning a yahrzeit candle for you, my stubborn, lonely sister, on this first anniversary of your death. For the rest of my life, I will be wearing your diamond ring and sometimes the gold earrings you never wore, and I will save the two sheets of buttons I kept from your huge collection, golden or jeweled or cloisonné buttons attached to white cardboard in a diamond pattern of black-inked squares. When we had little to talk about we would look through the drawer where all the button sheets were piled and play the game of which is your favorite button? Mine, my love, is the smallest, half as big as my pinkie nail—a circle of bronze, within it a circle of white, at the center an aqua translucent orb—and that’s how I hold your memory—like a nest with a robin’s egg.
At the Wedding
This happened near a stream or river, a place shaded by trees, with dappled light.
A handsome man with a stunning wife, both later middle-aged, owned an Italian restaurant out of which a bride burst, raven-haired, wearing a short, tight-waisted, full-skirted satiny dress. She was instantly surrounded by a group of people congratulating her, including my husband and at least some of our family. I realized she was my ex-sister-in-law and went over and said “Congratulations” rather coldly. She was about to get into a coach with her groom and be carried off to more Italian celebrations. Her groom wore the male wedding uniform: blue blazer, light pink pants.
I looked to my side and there was my ex-husband a little distance away, wearing a blue blazer and—to show he belonged there—dark pink pants, so crippled and bent that his legs had been strapped together. He seemed just about to fall over so I asked him, “Do you need a chair? Can I get you a chair?” I don’t know what he was going to answer because the dream shifted but first I had the quick thought, how stupid this long animosity is, how pathetic to carry grudges when this is the end of us all.
Bamboo outside my window waves against the sky
where small birds warble, then grow silent, and the harsh
crows slice across the morning, across the pecan trees
exhausted from our Mississippi summer
when the air seemed nearly poison
and we could find no joy. The day is sweeter now
but sorrow gathers at every corner, across the world,
so much that the heart shuts down.
The Seer for the Evening at last month’s party,
zipped up in a too-tight velvet costume,
waved a crimson fan before my face
and touching my temples said, no joy shines in you.
Cutting the cards, I drew
Balance Gratitude Breakthrough.
Breathe, and remember the fine-tipped leaves,
the quiet October air. Then it will come, the new.
Ann Fisher-Wirth's fifth book of poems, Mississippi, appeared from Wings Press in February 2018. Mississippi is a poetry/photography collaboration with the acclaimed Delta photographer Maude Schuyler Clay. Ann's other books are Dream Cabinet, Carta Marina, Five Terraces, and Blue Window. With Laura-Gray Street she coedited The Ecopoetry Anthology (Trinity UP 2013). A fellow of the Black Earth Institute, Ann was 2017 Anne Spencer Poet in Residence at Randolph College in Virginia. She has held senior Fulbright lectureships in Switzerland and Sweden, and has had residencies at Djerassi, Hedgebrook, The Mesa Refuge, and CAMAC/Centre d'Art Marnay. She teaches at the University of Mississippi, where she also directs the Environmental Studies program.