Poems & Essays

16 Nov

What You Give Up

General/Column No Response

I can’t leave her
That’s what I said
For years
Us two here, the other two over there
With their priorities, pointed in that direction

But then something changed
Something beautiful
Somebody small and beautiful
Who transformed the landscape, my landscape
And I left her alone
Where we once stood together

Where did I go? Nowhere new
But my head was now somewhere else
I had to drop everything for someone
And that someone was no longer her

I called her
To catch up, to salvage something of our old ritual
I had a wedge of time into which I could slot her
We talked of Anne Enright and books and
Our parents
Our familiar topics
As we talked
I kept an eye on my watch, and the golden dome where I worked
Topped by a goddess, a seer with a torch – and a sword

What you give up
That laughter down the phone line
Erupting, overflowing, sometimes wicked, sometimes silly,
Sometimes a bittersweet tonic in a life that’s been so cruel and unrelenting.
Always: so delicious

What you give up
Those late evening calls, sometimes desperate, sometimes joyful but always, always redolent of
what I consider the true sibling relationship.
Talking to her feels like breathing, I think
As I stand outside the Capitol
Catching my breath

What you give up,
I think, as I total up
What was gained and
What was lost.


Jeanne Bonner is a freelance writer and editor, and a candidate for an M.F.A. in Fiction from Bennington College.
She lives in Atlanta, where until last year she was an NPR station reporter. You can find her on Twitter at @bonnerjeanne.

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