Katie, sister was originally published in Walk Myself Home, an anthology by Caitlin Press aimed at ending violence against women.
Six years young, Katie wore
a bleached cotton sundress
with papier-maché over wire
hanger wings. It took thirty days,
eight newspapers, and one hair dryer
for me to set her feathers to form,
so she could welcome in the baby Jesus.
“I need you. The beach spot.”
A text. Katie. Fourteen years old.
I phoned back – no reply – left a party
mid-conversation, and let
my fifth-hand Chevy roar.
She had always been loved a little less, mistreated
a little more, some family cruelty I couldn’t understand.
Katie gazed over the rioting ocean,
a hastily assembled backpack beside her,
filled with her lunches she never ate, clothes,
her skirted legs dangling from the rockface, kicking
pebbles loose with her heels, her toes reaching
for ground. She looked
like a ballerina torn
from her music-box.
I wiped her mascara and put
my arm around her shoulders,
and led her away from the wind.
She fell asleep in the seat beside me,
knees tucked, arms askew at angles.
My coat covered her, chin to ankle.
We roomed together for a time,
her nuzzled into my couch or
pacing about my room. I found
all her new habits, good and ill,
the eggshells she’d keep from omelets
and line up along the windowsill,
a shelf of flightless birds.
when they never asked about her,
took a Greyhound to Ontario,
left me a note, no number,
phones me every month or so,
promising to come back sometime,
but not any time soon.
Don’t be a stranger,