Last sister

Least and last and now, as 
the last illness comes and she 
takes to bed, largest. The only 
one with lungs still breathing 
faintly on this earth. The rest 
in their sequence, like birth spaces, 
dead, bones striving for equality 
reaching dust as if a race and tape 
measured them still. A stile 
she will have to cross alone 
or a door with the handle too high 
tiptoeing to reach the windowsill 
and see in through the glass 
but not out. Until then 
she holds them as an hourglass 
holds sand and a rose holds scent. 


Elizabeth Smither’s latest collections of poetry are The Year of Adverbs (AUP, 2007) and Horse Playing the Accordion (ahadada books, 2007). A new collection of stories, The Girl Who Proposed, will be published by Cape Catley in 2008.

The last of her Australian aunts, from a family of twelve, died early this year. She was the youngest, the one they regarded affectionately, since she was always following them about, as ‘the nuisance’. In this poem, Elizabeth was imagining her death, her siblings who had gone before, and her going on her own.