Sestina: Elizabeth

— Patricia Liu

I’ve forgotten who lived in my room
before I did. Someone who must have loved
watching the sky, evidence in the window
seat’s faded quilt. Someone with hands
spent unraveling worn thread, making motion
out of a world of still. Someone my older sister

might have known as Older Sister,
who carved the corners of her room
from our mother’s hipbones, who moved
with the assurance of never losing a love.
This girl must have been made from hand-
painted flowering dogwood dresses, window-

sills of last night’s stale water with window’s
reflection of glass and silk and her sisters’
faces. I want to feel what her hands
would have felt, to lie in a darkened room,
to imagine night in the speckled ceiling, to love
like a mother whose children move

as if she were already gone. Constant stop-motion
movie: the first scene would begin by the window.
Our mother would call her cupboard love,
looking down at the three of us, sister
in sister in sister. We would leave room
in our shirt pockets for butterflies, hands

too small to notice their folding wings, hand-
me-down sneakers clapping symphony movements
on the concrete steps that lined our garden room.
She might have passed as our twin, though
at dinnertime she would always insist her
dessert found the backyard porch, love

of the sunset above family. Our parents would love
her so well. But they just stay up, wringing their hands
to the rhythm of silence, an empty song of a sister
lost to a body that knew too much to keep her. I move
my lips, but I’ve lost her name, waiting at the window
until I’ve forgotten who lived in my room.


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