for my sister Kathy, 1952-1961
Lying on your cots in the train compartment you shared,
you and Marilyn talked before bed, while I slept, a baby.
She asked you if you were ever going to get married.
"Of course," you said, your life at nine still perfect
and marriage another snapshot to be taken of you
with your dazzling smile. But Marilyn has children now
older than you were when you stepped off the train
in the dark by accident, and I, an adult,
find nothing in marriage uncomplicated, nothing pure.
We have imagined you living on, through the years,
the trajectory of your life following its true course
in the realm of absence, without friction or gravity,
while our lives grow sad, with the routine sadness
that tarnishes the lives we pictured as children.
All you can say is "Of course,"
as if all questions were direct, all answers simple.
Your face in the snapshots never changes,
your smile never diluted by doubt. You will never know
the fear of death that makes me turn to my lover in bed
and hold the astonishing warmth of his body beside me.
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