you were weeks early
for our first birthday party
almost 8.5 years ago

the one i crashed by telling
the nurses that we were family
(we are, just not by blood)

the one where i cradled you
one-armed, because i could
(even though i was nervous)

the one where i had to have
promised to be a good auntie
(i’ll keep it even if i didn’t)

so it’s okay that we’re a little
late celebrating mine this year
it all evens out in the end


over the decades the topics
of concern, during our increasingly
rare get-togethers have evolved
from high school electives
to college applications
to relationship and career choices
to planning for and raising children
to caring for aging parents and in-laws

and we reluctantly accept that
there may have been a small
amount of growth along the way

and then she sends me photos
from yesterday’s climbing lesson

and i notice her chalky handprint
at the center of my back
in every single shot

and i heartily accept
that some things
will never change


this nightly game I play
with words is not unlike
the challenge of piecing
together a jigsaw puzzle

all the parts interlocking
just so that an image forms
from the chaotic jumble
of straight and curvy edges

but unlike those numbered
boxes of broken up bits
i never know how many
it will take

sharp memories

the persistent ones
of you deep in thought
from those encounters
few and far between

the steady knocking
of skin wrapped knuckle
against the underside
of a wooden table

the thumb and forefinger
softly absently strumming
at the corner of lower lip
to a silent melody

the slim sinewy arms
curled around knees
elevated by bare feet
resting on sofa cushion

always the krop umpel eyes
focused in the distance
that sooner or later returned
to meet my rapt gaze