Self Portrait As/With Sister

— Sara Ryan

it is a beautiful day in Michigan, and she is
rising and setting like a reliable, burning planet.
             she doesn’t need me anymore—it’s okay.

             I’m accepting this. sometimes, she

stands still and life bustles around
her in a blur. she shaves her head, and
             I shave down my bones in her shadow.

             being an older sister is hard. I imagine,

being a younger sister is harder. even
the stars dye our arms with blue inks.
             between the bridge and Canada, she

             comments on the weather. her dogs

run through the snow in flurries
of beige. she is electric. she is a forest.
             she is made of moths and gets a tattoo

             of the death’s head hawkmoth. just like

silence of the lambs
, she says, mom’s
favorite movie
. she grins and the small
             vein at the center of her forehead pulses.

             for a moment—is full of blood and sun.

I do not need to be told that I know nothing
about wine. or men. or Detroit. or electronic
             dance music. I know she thinks I only have

             the most useless of knowledge: love poems.

rhyme schemes. why she dreams of her teeth
falling out of her mouth. I notice that her shoes
             are covered in mud. I have the same pair. shined.

             gleaming. when I visit her, I always do her dishes.

clean out her car. I find an old pickle. dog toys.
an uneaten black apple. between us, I see a small
             ocean. a yellow raft floats across our arms,

             outstretched. she hugs me whenever she sees me.

on the shortest phone calls, she says
I love you. and I say I love you, too. we both
             know why. this is our way. our forced, grinning

             photograph. our aching pattern of blood.


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