I learned sign language just for you.
You didn’t understand the silence of my hands
Because your ears worked just fine.
But when you watched the way my body moved,
I realized your attention was all mine
And I thought I might finally be getting through.
So I wrote this poem without ever pronouncing the words.
Because being your big sister
There was one thing I learned:
What you say can make others suffer
And what you hear might hurt.
So I looked at you with big brown eyes and taught you that
I preferred to ask the questions soft and slow
While you told me the highly abridged version of your autobiography.
And it wouldn’t surprise anyone to know
That while you talked of schoolyard crushes and your best friend Oslo
We were on another walk,
Where the scenery would change from day to day
Depending on what we were too timid to say
And the only thing that ever remained the same
Was that I was content to let you talk.
For fifteen months I let you talk and
Tried not to get in the way.
So will you hear me now?
I’ve got to get through to you somehow.
I’ve said so many prayers that I lost my voice
And I would have stopped then but
You left me no choice.
Because you never listen to a single word I say
Whether I scream or whisper or sing or sign or pray
Or write them down on endless empty pages.
If I wasn’t a Christian, I would have lost my faith in you
But you are the only one who has ever made me rhyme
So if you don’t man up and listen to me this time
I don’t know what I’m going to do.
I can’t live in silence, but I can’t live without you.
So are you going to make me stand up here and proclaim a commandment I’m begging you to hear?
Or are you gonna break me out of my sing-song swag and drag
Me back to IHOP at 2 a.m.
Where brother and sister would go when they needed to pretend
That the symphonies inside them wouldn’t break them into pieces.
Back to foggy nights when you’d play me songs on your guitar
Melodies I picked out of a hymnal trying to find the harmony to your heart.
And I don’t mean to compare myself to Jesus,
But when I walked in your shoes
Because you Truth-or-Dared me to
And stretched out my arms to show you my scars
I could almost believe it.
So I wrote this poem because it’s how I learned to pray.
So when your kaleidoscope heart
Was missing the part that made a rainbow out of black and grey,
You could make watercolor worship out of the dark.
But once I step off this stage and take my customary place
Behind the scenes of your soft-spoken clichés,
Everything I’ve tried to say to you will be gone without a trace
Because I wrote this poem in whispers
And you didn’t listen anyway.