This is a poem that I rediscovered while going through a notebook recently. It’s about my sister and our relationship. I wouldn’t say that we’ve had a difficult relationship, but it’s not one that’s been particularly straighforward. It’s not that we don’t get on; it’s just that we’re quite different characters. I’m sure lots of siblings are exactly the same.
There’s a six year age gap between us and so, at times growing up it felt like we had little in common other than parents. It was just too much of a difficult age gap. There was and still is no shortage of love, but we just turned out very different and I think that meant that the bond wasn’t all that it could have been. I got thinking about it recently when I heard that my sister was ill and it led to me writing the poem and in a way reassessing how we are with each other and also realising how lucky I am to have her and how important she’s always been for me.
Distance From the line where we started there was always a distance. You were independent, strong, theirs long before me. Later, when fate made me weak, doctors kept us apart and the distance grew. You closed the gap as we got to know each other better, looked after me, a fierce lioness to my runt of the litter. Teenage kicks widened the gap again to a chasm and you were out more often than in. Your influence remained even when you weren't around as your music became mine, throwing me those White Lines and an everlasting Motown lifeline. Around this time you revealed to us your terrible taste in men as a series of terrible choices took you away some more and made you seem like a stranger. No longer the apple of anyone's eye, especially not mine, who, worldly wise at the grand old age of twelve was the perfect judge; a pre-teen with a puritanical moral compass. How that would change as we grew and underwent a role reversal. At twenty one the bad choices still hung around as you set off, no more than a child, to become an adult, from Miss to Mrs in the blink of an eye, my fierce, happy lioness just gone. You were there, but not really... My own growth widened the gap some more; a Grand Canyon of taste, culture, views and choices. And despite your own bad record, you were there to pick up the pieces when I made the wrong choice myself. And, when I was too young to cope with loss you scooped me up, held me so tightly that it physically hurt yet emotionally helped and I endured the pain just to feel safe again. Eventually it was geography that would create another mystery; the one that says you cannot close a gap when neither of you will pick up the phone. It's one we're still trying lazily to unravel. Now the first knock on a particular door, the one that we were scolded just for mentioning when we were kids, brings the news that we had always expected with age and I'm a kid again, grasping for words, gasping for air, unable to cope and looking to you for comfort me, unfailingly, predictably. The realisation that those gaps need to be closed hits me like a sledgehammer. Forget the choices, forget the gaps, move on from the past and hope that we can make the best of whatever future might remain.
I’m not sure there’s much else I can say about this poem. It feels like quite an emotive thing to write about and as such, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m not sure it really matters whether I think it’s good or bad, but I hope it does my sister and our relationship justice and I think it’ll be a subject matter that I’ll return to.
I’d love – as always – to know what people think, so feel free to leave a comment.