Sister

She was the quiet one,
with my father’s light
voice, his easy
acceptance of life.
My brother and I were
the Irish ones, jokers, blatherers.
She was shy; so was I,
but her shyness forgiven
because she was he, she was
the first, the silent one whose
footstep was never heard.
We were all three smart,
but she got one hundred
on her geometry Regents exam.
One would have expected her,
with her quiet voice,
Asian eyes, and soulful gaze
to be the poet, but she was a
scientist. She showed me how
to make a paper crane, and I
was as fascinated by her
slender fingers moving
as I was by the origami.
Her fingers on piano keys were
light and swift, but she could be
vigorous and dramatic in the
bright passages. The end
of “Valse Triste” was my favorite,
and I played it myself, years later,
trying to capture not so much
Sibelius’s sound, or story, or
witchcraft, but the memory
of Sis playing, on our little upright,
this frightening music in the
quiet calm of the house
we grew up in.

 

About the Author

Gay Baines has a B.A. in English from Russell Sage College and has done graduate work at Syracuse University and SUNY – Buffalo. He won the National Writers Union Poetry Prize in 1991, Honorable Mention in the Ruth Cable Memorial Poetry Contest in 1996, and the 2008 Mary Roelofs Stott Award for poetry, as well as other prizes. His poems, essays, and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in over 50 literary journals, including Atlanta Review, The Baltimore Review, Bayou, Cimarron Review, Cloudbank, Confluence, Crate Literary Magazine, Dislocate, Forge, Grey Sparrow, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Hypertext Magazine, Jabberwock Review, Louisiana Literature, Nimrod International Journal, Oregon East, Phoebe, The Pinch, Slipstream, South Carolina Review, Talking River, The Tampa Review, The Texas Review, Tiger’s Eye, Verdad, Westview, Whiskey Island, Willow Review, Wisconsin Review, and Zone 3.