I Had Sisters Once
By Renee Y. Brown
I had sisters once.
Four in one
One of four.
I am first in years.
Divided by names only:
Otherwise indivisible by
I believed absolutely in my sisters and nothing else.
‘Else’ was everything that was not sisters —
Dust floating through the light of our singularity. I put no other before them including
That was my blessing but I’m not blessed. More than once I tried to trick myself that some man was more to me than they. But I always got kicked back into the world of my sisters. I cracked our snow globe
from the inside but I made repairs and saved it, head bowed and chastened.
I was the elder solving the unsolvable, fighting the unwinnable wars till victory and slaying the monsters, the real monsters that used fists and dicks and marriage as weapons.
I defeated and banished them.
My sisters were with me always not like Jesus or god or my husband or stuff I owned but like a thing called permanence and another thing called loyalty and this other thing I once thought was reality
that was defined by something I called ‘love’ and that love was believing absolutely in my sisters.
Love is sisters and sisters are love. Two beliefs intertwined as one.
I was right and never doubted that as the ultimate truth in life.
For nearly a quarter-century that stood.
Then came a beast more powerful than me waging a war I could not win —
And Fear conquered our world with unforgiving bitterness.
I tried. I slammed myself against each steel door until I bled, wounds that seeped then flowed then hemorrhaged. Exsanguinated I finally fell. And so did the thing called permanence and the thing called loyalty and
I believe in something different now.
Remember when we used to play records in the back bedroom for hours in the dark, Beatles to Bay City Rollers to Sex Pistols. You were silly and crazy and up for anything because if life had limits
you would test them all and break them. You had light in your eyes and sparks in your heart.
You were one of the first kids in our high school to go punk. They threatened to kill you but you never backed down. You dyed your hair orange and went backstage with the bands at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go and roamed
Sunset Boulevard until dawn.
You were unique and unafraid to show it.
I know there was a moment I was not with you when I should’ve and your wounds are blood upon my hands. That stain I still carry but I came back and sisters lifted you high but you chose to fall. Sisters held out hands
but you hacked at them until severed.
What fear made you fall into something you called a ‘Christian’ that killed the light in your eyes and kindled your heart with nothing but dogma and madness?
I couldn’t fight your kind of Christ and win.
Husbands came and went like mannequins animated by cruelty with malignant intent in their glass eyes. You swept the gutter for the cast-offs of crack-whores and California state penitentiaries then married them.
I do truly hope ‘Jesus loves you’ because you don’t. I hope Jesus forgives because you chose dicks over your own daughter and while you got fucked she got screwed by a childhood and adolescence bereft of the kind of love
given you as a sister.
Your daughter should’ve been more to you but the dicks were always first, then you, and your daughter wasn’t even on the list. Because of them she was hated and abused, hungry and homeless,
denied her humanity and her identity all while you preached a twisted Jesus and loved demons.
‘Jesus saves’ but you only saved yourself and the dicks.
Now you live in Utah with husband number three or is it four I lost count because I can’t absorb the chaos anymore. You make your own choices but I don’t have to live with them.
This isn’t hate or anger because I don’t have that poison in me anymore. This isn’t ‘judgment’ because I don’t make that call.
I hope you find happiness or at least don’t get murdered but most of all I hope the light in your eyes returns and your heart is a bonfire blazing yourself again.
Leave the husbands and put down the Bible because what you’re looking for can’t be found in another person or a thing but only in you.
It was there long ago when you stood for yourself and showed an endless starry sky who you are —
Things you denied your daughter for a god that is not God and dicks who are not men.
But your daughter found and freed himself to be who he truly is.
You too can return from the past digging and clawing your way up through the dirt until you break surface and a single photon of light strikes your eye.
I know under the layers of drab 19th Century Mormon conformity there is the rebel with orange hair and pink lipstick wearing spike heels and going crazy beyond all limits
breaking every plate in the china shop without paying
and pulling stars down from the sky
to adorn herself with brilliance.
If I ever had any god in my life it was you.
You were the rock upon which I built the church of my life. If I live a hundred years or more to the very moment of my death I will wonder why you are gone like the last breath I took at midnight of the millennium.
We fought side-by-side to slay the devil himself. We should be celebrating our victory every day over evil incarnate, a triumph that will forever stand. The monster is dead and he will never rise to touch you again.
Instead I am alone and my brain is fading but you remember everything. Maybe you remember too much.
Even though the monster is slain he’s not gone. No one ‘just gets over it’ but as long as you hold on to the memory of the monster the monster holds on to you. He won’t let you go until you let him go.
Fear of living without fear is a run to nowhere.
There’s no such thing as revenge because no matter what you do even if you kill them you can never undo what they did.
The two absolutes in life are death and you can’t go back. You can ‘what if’ the rest of your life away but there’s always a choice: shit or get off the pot.
Cut the loop and lay it out straight like a road that goes in one direction – ahead. Fear only exists if you believe it. It’s too late only if you choose to turn out the light. You can defy gravity by falling up. You can break the laws of physics
if you think so.
Home is not a location set in time but a way of being with the people you love who love you. Wherever and whenever they are, that’s where your home is.
Together we can take the power of the universe to build our own reality from scratch. We did it once before. That I do remember.
There is no space between us. That is an illusion. No continent, no ocean, no country. The ‘real’ world isn’t that mess out there that other people accept as real. They don’t know you can do it yourself and it’s as easy as a thought.
We pull ourselves up from the overcrowded gutter out of the mud and dung and garbage so we can ascend to the stars and infinity.
Your life has the meaning that you give it.
These three things have we: courage, compassion, integrity.
I learned all three from you. And the greatest of all is —
Never do your enemy’s work for them.
The true definition of revenge is moving forward. Stand up with me and walk.
The church doors are never closed.
If I have any god in my life
It is You.
My sweet beautiful baby sister.
Days of joy, nights of fun, in youth resplendent like the sun.
So were we many years ago but the sun still rises every day and I have fun and feel joy. I’m even resplendent on occasion but not in the mirror.
You were the girl who stopped her car in the middle of the street to pick up an injured bird and took it home and tried to save it and wept when it died. Where are you now?
Where is the heart that was open to a little bird but now cannot include me?
We all grow older, me more than you, but just because the years ahead shrink doesn’t mean our hearts have to.
In a way, of the three, you are the most lost to me. We live near in distance but in opposite worlds.
When did furniture become more important than living beings, the condition of the carpet more important than the condition of your soul? Did your house become your soul? Houses decay and fall or get torn down, the remnants taken
to a dump.
Can you find your soul by digging through the rubbish in some landfill?
Possessions that possess you are like scavengers feeding on living flesh picking the bones bare. A corpse adorned in jewels is still rotten.
If your soul is a sweetly-singing little bird would you kill it so it won’t shit on the sofa?
Are you afraid that if all your possessions were taken away there would be nothing left but you? Or that there would be no ‘you?’
When it comes to the very end will your last thought be “at least I paid all my bills on time.”
Being resplendent like the sun doesn’t mean having a good tan.
Passion in life isn’t something you watch on TV.
Learn what Erin taught me.
Courage is hotter than the sun and it won’t give you cancer. Compassion is beauty that can’t be purchased or lost. Integrity doesn’t turn to dust like possessions.
Your beauty, sweet baby sister, didn’t come from youth. It didn’t come from a bottle or a hair salon or clothes. It wasn’t a perfect reflection in the mirror.
Your magnificent beauty radiating hotter than the core of the sun, a star lighting up the world wherever you went and giving warmth to every living being was
Your passion in life was caring about others including your own family —
Mother, Father, and sisters.
We are all still here but not forever here.
It is half past a century and time is a slippery bastard I can’t hold onto anymore.
The sun rises and sets and sometimes I smile but I see fewer stars and it’s hard to reach your destination without guides.
So I go on, first person singular, imperfect,
Wondering if now is the time to mend the fences before the fields go fallow.
Or is it just the natural progression of life
for people, once the center of your world,
to scatter, becoming disconnected, isolated, sublimated by jobs and bills and all the minutia of daily living until they are no longer the people who shared a common reality with you?
Maybe trying to recreate an idyllic perfection from the past that is only perfect because it’s gone is like taking a class and not showing up.
A family isn’t the mere sharing of DNA but a choice. Maybe we chose not to be sisters anymore and I can fault no one for that. Maybe we are meant to separate in time to find new families where we can anchor our hearts and dreams.
If so then I will let the fences fall and find my own true home in this world.
But I can never forget
I had sisters once.
Four in one
One of four.
Numbers forever chanting
Echoing in that empty snow globe I still hold up to my ear
To drown out the ticking of the clock.
Forgiveness is life.
And if another realm of being extends beyond this flesh then forgiveness creates it, infinitely expanding with all possibilities including a reality where
I have sisters in the now,
Together shining more resplendent than any sun, any star, in any universe —
Poetry on Love and Life and Sisters from Renee Y. Brown