My sister wears my mother’s cancer like a crown of thorns,
in her tissue paper hands while she wept for the child she would never be again.
I watch from the ground and hold out my hands to catch her tears,
pulling them away at the last second,
terrified they will burn holes in my palms –
stigmata for the whole world to see what I have been working so hard to hide…
my martyrdom has been worn before now;
called out to the world and recited back to me
in angry, shouting text messages by my sister messiah,
to give her lift off her cross…
the struggle only dug the nails in deeper…
the pain more acute and exquisite.
I ran the trail of tears to the Golgotha in my back yard
to take on suffering of the dead so I didn’t have to face the dying.
…didn’t own that until now
because it’s easier to mourn strangers long dead
than to repent the pain brought to the living
and those deathbed pleas for forgiveness are so much harder to make
under duress and ignorance of what exactly forgiveness was needed for.
I will pull out the old iron maiden,
run to the hills,
leaving the crown to the bowing head of my sister.
Ramona L. Elke is a poet, playwright, and a student of belly dance who pays her bills with her skills as a history teacher/substance use counselor/poetry teacher to defiant adolescents in a small-town, British Columbia high school. She has been practicing her poetry writing since the tender age of six years, when she was first published as the runner up in a Mother’s Day poem contest. She has been published in the 2016 and 2017 Poetry Marathon Anthologies. She also has a collection titled The Reluctant Daughter available on amazon.com.