Today My Sister – Penelope Scarborough

By August 11, 2021 September 6th, 2021 2021 runner up

Today My Sister

Today I poured water onto my plate at dinner,
in hopes my sister would notice
stuck a fork in my hand
and made a drawing for her
out of the soggy bread pieces.

Tonight my sister dropped her cigarettes under the dining table
before our dog wedged them under the rug.
She held me by my throat until I admitted to being a thief,
left bruises where there had been kisses
then dumped the remnants in a flowerpot
and left my tears swimming in the dirt.

Today I looked at my sister’s pack just a little too long,
graphic photos of murdered lungs
sobbing behind bars of bones, imprisoned in plastic packaging.
Knew tonight I’d have nightmares of them
taking shelter inside my sister’s ribcage.
Knew tomorrow she’d happily make a bed for them to stay.

Today I watched my sister stir her cereal almost reluctantly,
eyeing the clorox bottles on the shelf.
Two litres of death measured out in a plastic pot.
Knew she wished it wasn’t milk
she’d poured into her bowl at breakfast.

Tonight I watched my sister exhale a ghost from her mouth
but it wasn’t quite cold enough outside.
It filled the room and wrapped around me in a solemn hug
as if to whisper
“We’re sorry for what’s coming.”

Today I would grow quietly
so as not to disturb her,
muscles aching from neglect,
and miss another birthday
for a rehab visit
only to realise I’d turned 17
before I was 13.

Today I’d wear my sister’s sweater,
stained with smoke and regrets.
soiled with a permanent nihilism.
Ignore how immune it was
to the fruitless attempts of our laundry powder.

Tonight I’d sob on the wooden floor
that we found her on.
The floor that felt no empathy for me or for her.
Let the moon press its face up against the window
and stare down on me with pity.

But tomorrow,
I’d spit our memories into the bathroom sink.
Bittersweet saliva dripping from my mouth and hands
Watch those days slip through the cracks in the porcelain
before clawing to get them back,
so I could press them between the pages of a book
and stomach one more mouthful

And on her last day
I’d fill my sister’s room with smoke
Inhale deeply and close my eyes,
taste her laugh on my tongue,
how it lingered raw in the air
Hear the sound of her eyes
blinking quiet tears in the dark.

And though I didn’t believe in ghosts,
I knew she’d find a way to haunt me somehow.
Though the smoke slowed my heart
It wrapped around me
in a solemn hug
As if to say,
“we’re sorry.”
It wasn’t quite enough to pretend it was her.



Penelope Scarborough
Year 13
Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu



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