A. L. Thomas


To the Other Dying Daughter—

In fairness, it wasn't your mistake. It couldn't be,         
you are the mistake. And who can blame us

for blaming you? The instant you appeared
we called for a scapegoat, a hangman, and you

appeared. A fresh canvas. We painted you
blank. It's not that you were born, but that

you weren't born dying. You weren't born her,
dying. It's taken you forty years, a family,

to be born right, to begin to die. No one
should have to wait so long to bury their child.



To the Other, Not Yet Dead—

She came out      shrouded:      it was
just      a matter            of time  
which,         as an only matter,
remains unmoved       by the clock.

                          Five years—a life
encapsulated               in smallness,
illness—            became my lifetime,
swallowed        whole.

                          Now        forty years
I live         some other       thing—
one day            which starts itself
anew       each time I raise my head,

          which starts      itself      here,
watching you     die           before
you ever     know        what it is
to lay    a small     body

                           into the ground.









We hear a lot of stories about people we'll never meet; sometimes we hear enough of them to feel like we might even recognize the people in question. This piece is my attempt to become the character in one string of stories I've heard--to write myself into that character in order to try to understand why she's done what she's done.