My Singing Empty Hands

1 November 2012

i hold the boat steady and my sister
climbs in the boat smells of lavender
as only the image of a boat
can smell of lavender in a dream

water purling at the lip my sister
has not grown any older
my sister says
i smell like garlic

my sister takes the oars
you sit she says i row don’t you know
anything? my sister’s words
smell strongly of washing powder

she flinches when i touch her
shut up she says just let me row
my sister’s hands on the oars
smell of soap and some sinister

cheap perfume my daughter sometimes
wears when she is angry my sister
closes her hands on the oars
my sister does not see me at all

there’s the smell of kelp in the water
some rival in her head do you remember
nothing
she says you say is true
i taste the snow in the air between us

my sister rows
precisely and with determination
the book grows soggy in her hand
ink grass clippings blood

why aren’t you helping she cries at last
thrusting the oars at me as she sheds
her crocodile tears you never do anything
the book with which she has been rowing

from under her lashes my sister
watches me my sister’s tears
taste like lamingtons my sister’s voice
shines with the cut of scales

my sister does not see through her crying
the flash of real fish in the flashing water
my sister sits in our small boat
in the middle of that wide little water

with rounded shoulders
the smell of iron filings
something burning
she wears our mother’s hair

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