Poetry 2010 / Volume 41

My Sisters in Iowa — Judy Ireland

My sisters smoke cigarettes and laugh deep laughs,
part gravel, part alto. The family’s shrunk down to a few of us,
stubborn and willful, mostly single, never married or paired off for long,
returning always so that state of self that is undaunted, undivided,
free of attachment, female bodhisarrvas of the corn.
The thought occurs to each of us separately
that the other two are hard to get along with.
Too damn bad.

We’re the same age now as the people in our parents’
photographs. I imagine my sisters posed like the gray bodiesV
standing in front of now-ghost houses, staring straight ahead,
trying to look nice but half wild and wanting to take off, cross-prairie.
It’s a long life.

And in the spring, I see them holding cigarettes between tight lips
hanging clothes on the outside line, eyes squinting
against rising smoke. I see them looking up
into the pear tree, gauging this year’s harvest,
counting pears, green leaves everywhere
like returned relatives, familiar, welcome,
wonderfully temporary.

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