Poem: “Siblings” & The Story Behind the Words


A wall-eyed young girl in a party dress
with carefully combed dark hair,
brushed tears away from a narrow pretty face
drawn with misery.

Maybe the cause was a word spoken,
or a series of them, a mentioned memory, person or place.
Maybe it was all of those things for

After giving a deliberate satisfied speech
from which she sat back with a faint smile,
her straight sighted twin regarded her dispassionately
on the warm, fine summer evening bus ride.

–Written 8 July 2014


When a few moments viewing of a young girl’s fight to hold back tears guts you, when you want to know what caused it: what words said, what fate contemplated and dreaded forthcoming. But those are things I thought afterwards as I forced my legs to move, to walk away from her, to not follow her and see how I might help, if I could help in some way.

After a long hot day at work, I was riding the same bus I usually do, standing at the back as I usually do, only occasionally watching other commuters as they intermittently moved or conversed, such things. I had vaguely noticed two young girls, probably 11 or 12 years old who sat facing each. I had noticed them mostly because of their wavy dark hair, which reminded me of my son, along with their light tan skin. “Must be twins” I said to myself, for their bearing and countenance was nearly identical.

My thoughts returned to other things. A few minutes passed, and the upcoming stop would be my own. When I glanced back at the scrolling “next stop” marquee at the front of the bus, I noticed the obvious siblings again, as one rose to get off. The “twin” who’d sat across from her didn’t move save to take off her glasses, hold her face in one hand a moment before looking back up towards the window. The dejection, the abject expression of misery on her face, in the lines of her shoulders and slope of her narrow flat chest.

The skin around her eyes were reddened, as obviously she’d been crying or about to. And her eyes, one looked down at her lap while the other wandered elsewhere, the wall-eyed condition so often mocked, which I know personally, for it runs in my family, and I’d had mine corrected as an infant. The dispassionate eyes of the standing sibling turned back to the seated twin with a trace of latent triumph. Something hurtful had been said without doubt.The wall-eyed young girl finally forced herself to move.

As we were all getting off on the same stop, I forced myself to also move also because my body felt leaden for her hurt was so strong, so poignant, I had helplessly absorbed it. I found that I could barely walk. My legs felt numb. I didn’t want to embarass her, to look at her as she still struggled with controlling her feelings, as she dropped back behind her mother and other siblings as we waited for the crossing light. When it turned, I made myself stride ahead away from them, but as soon as I crossed the street and they moved in another direction, I dropped in pace and had to stop. I literally had to gather my composure in order to continue.

I was an often solemn child, except with certain people, seldom smiling in any photo, always somewhat removed from any grouping. I thought of myself, of what I carried in my mind and heart back at the same age, and what it did to my spirit then and sometimes now. I thought of all the things that could make that child look so hurt and alone.

It could have been any city, any bus ride, any family, any child.