A family remembrance poem
Do you remember when I was six? You came into my bedroom to wake me in the hour before sunrise. When I asked what was going on you simply smiled, pulled a sweatshirt over my head and took me outside in the pre-dawn light. In our backyard you had set up a ladder against our roof. I went up first. I was always scared of that ladder, how it would creak and shake. But you held it steady. You climbed up with a blanket slung over your arm, laid it on the tar-and-gravel surface, and we sat together at the edge, our feet swaying above the patio. You still hadn’t said a word, but put your heavy arm around my shoulder. We sat together until light raced over the hills like a herd of wild horses. The sun beamed off the flat roofs across our city, and from our vantage point we seemed to be on an island amidst a vast golden sea; you finally spoke.
Two years ago, your father and your uncle passed away in the same summer that mom’s cancer spread to her lungs. We kept our sufferings separate after that, and if we ate together it was in silence. You started spending all your time at the computer, looking up any information you could get on the slurry of chemicals getting pumped into Mom but none of the news was good. I caught you once, standing motionless in the backyard between the oranges and tangerines, staring off into the hills as if waiting for them to erode away to nothing. I watched you wipe your face, before carrying on with watering the garden. Do you remember when I was six? You showed me my first sunrise, and told me then about so much beauty and wonder that comes every single day, but passes by so easily unnoticed and forgotten. I wanted to speak to you, but as you entered the house I stood silently, and watched you pass.