The locust tree and the shade of the locust tree
The honey locust and the white blossoms of the honey locust
The sun and the shade between the sun and
The sun between the shade:
is there nothing sweeter
than this inexperience, unending
unblending time of
or can we only hope when we are hopeless
bind when we are ropeless
cleaving to and from
the life before:
You are the thing I have not seen, the thing they would not see.
You are neither the shade nor the sun, the blossom nor
the yellow dog, furless, glistering with worms
in the heat.
I would not have seen your face if I had not known his hand.
See these clothes so tight around me.
See that white skin, so tight around you.
See that we are not like the rest of them:
The rest of them, who are always apart.
Before you this was a country without girls.
But I will not lie
and say you were the first.
There was one other, one foreyou, for me
long, in the long, long ago.
White skin, she had, like yours—like yours—
but white skin that could not be taken off.
Her name was Sister.
She lived under the house,
yellow hair spread on yellow dirt
and the yellow dogs came from far away
to lick at her small, white
Sarah Marshall grew up in rural Oregon and is currently a student in the
MFA Fiction and MA English programs at Portland State University,
where she also serves as editor-in-chief of The Portland Review. Her poetry
has appeared in or is forthcoming from Blood Lotus and The Fox Cry Review,
and she was recently named as a finalist for the Shelley Reece Poetry Award.
She is currently working on a novel, titled Sparrowrise, in which the narrator
of “Sister” plays a supporting role.
About her poem: “Sister” came about as a monologue from a character in my
novel Sparrowrise: a child murderer who lives in the California desert and is
known to my protagonist as “the Green Man.” I realized while composing
scenes in which she interacted with him that I had to find some way to
explore his character effectively, and that I wasn’t finding a way to do that
within the confines of a novel. I’ve always thought more in images than in
plots, and I started writing poems last fall as a way to get to know my novel’s
characters without feeling pressure to advance the story during the time I
spent with them. A poem allows you go insert yourself under the skin of a
character like the Green Man and float around for a while, unnoticed, before
coming up from air. Of all the characters in whose voices I’ve written, his
has been one of the most compelling.