my sister, who I didn’t know, hands me a photo of our mother in a nineteen-sixties summer dress,
our mother is our mirror,
hazel eyes, high cheekbones, dark hair,
our stomachs chain-stitched from childbirth.
I say, ‘she looks happy,’
my sister’s closed face veils her emotions like flower buds at dusk.
then I look again. our mother newly arrived in Australia,
pregnant, unmarried unknown
I realised the inadequacy of my response to my sister I didn’t know.
my sister and I biologically linked forty years separated, meeting at our mother’s grave for the first time.
do I want to hurt my sister?
her face strangely afflicted, feelings beyond the reach of words.
I longed for a sister to share the biological dysfunction from which I was stitched—yet
I turn away and escape to the bathroom seeking refuge from the inexplicable tear in the lining that joins siblings.
thinking of our mother, her secrets taken to the grave, I want her to know she could have shared them with me.
yet I know secrets are hard to let go
I look at the inherited features in the mirror. I see the aging face and feel her presence, not a ghost always with me.
Jo Curtain (she/her) is a poet and short-story writer. She is the editor of the Geelong Writers publication Anomaly Street: poetry with a difference. She writes for Coffee House Writers, and her work has been published or forthcoming in Geelong Writers anthologies, Blue Daisies Journal, Sour Cherry Mag, Rabbit Hole Short Stories and Pocket Baby Zine. She also has a growing fondness for combining visual art with words.