If I Were Your Sister and You Were a Bird and All the Wolves Were Buried and Dead

by Sarah Giragosian

for Jessie

Color me blue and red, I said, and you filled in
my face purple, your paints spilling over
the lines.   An only child no more,
I took to the flung-togetherness of our lives:
the way my comebacks bled into your repartee,
the winter days I’d find your mitten coupled with mine,
the new territories of care and fury between us,
more sisters than cousins.   You the Polo to my Marco,
you the blindman to my bluff.   If you hid
I would follow.   All day we would backfloat
angels into the first snowfall, and when I blended in,
you called me white as snow. But our mothers
couldn’t miss us. Each morning mine
or yours would grab one of us and tug a pick
through your baby afro or my baby knots
before we struck out for school, sidling into seats
at the back of the bus. But the phrase meant nothing
to us then but a spot away from prying eyes;
it was not a command or the state of the race.
Besides, I was a zebra fish or something
very much like it, and you were a catbird,
and we didn’t know anything about the need
to call ourselves one thing or another.
But maybe the bluff was yours,
and all that time–between playing pranks
and dress up, making dares and taking them–
you knew that wolves–real ones– stalked the city blocks,
and while I could blend in, you cut your teeth
when one caught sight of your skin
and I, blind as a babe in the woods,
walked on to a different street.