Practice


Picture this pair: eleven-year-old boy,
nine-year-old sister; we old folks ahead,
strolling between azaleas and a bed
of tulips he refuses to enjoy

because she wants him to. She spots a kite
wrestling pine branches; wordlessly, aloof,
he looks the other way, for further proof
of his contempt spins on his heel and right

into the woods we skirt. This walk is her
choice, and he's come against his will, is stone-
dense with fury, wants it to be known,
known and remembered. Old folks who prefer

peace to the truth–in fact, to everything–
we stay ahead. But she persists, looks over
her shoulder, offering feathers, pebbles, clover,
regrets her morning wish to walk in spring

now that he will not warm to her. Poor girl–
I think–transforming even now to suit
some other who draws back, passive and mute
and strong, wielding his silence and the curl

of his small lip–but no, she'll come to learn
to be a little hard herself, need less
another's pleasure than her own, to press
ahead alone and happy and not turn.


Rhina P. Espaillat, Rehearsing Absence, University of Evansville Press, 2001.