Still Life with Childhood
For a year my little sister
sang everything: directions on how
to tie one’s shoes, correct answers
to algebraic riddles, descriptions
of her favorite meringue, predictions
on which coast would crumble first
into the angry sea. For some reason
my parents put up with this:
the pitched arias of grocery lists,
injustices of school lunches. They let
her warble and chant, yodel, 
croon and scat a cappella, rendering
our home an antic, shifting stage.
The day she bellowed
Ray Finney is dead
in her yellow summer dress
we had to admit her voice
was improving, that her delivery
made Ray’s death a little lighter.
So emboldened, she began singing
obituaries of people we’d never met,
bringing civic leaders and inventors
of tool-and-dye shops into our midst
and in a stroke, killing them off.
I hated her for that and so penned
her obit: singing girl, age 9, found garroted
by older sister. Eventually she grew
out of trilling. Trees stopped speaking
in Portuguese to her. Tadpoles no longer
told her Arctic secrets. It was
the worst death of all, my mother said,
textbook, and without pardon.
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