restricted access Four Sisters and the Dance
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Four Sisters and the Dance


It’s morning, it’s evening or afternoon. Sweat glistens the tips of our noses. I two-step to some old-school. Barefoot in her nightgown, one sister waltzes alone to music that moves her. One kneels. One listens. Umm Kulthum sings, We outran our own shadows


We outran our own shadows The song’s breath bears traces of the sub-Saharan moan, the gospel holler. We grip our lives in our hands, sure of that much. Joy, like anger, runs deep as memories we carry like scars or diamonds, or like the potbound onion grass we tend or neglect.

Our rounded shoulders, passed down from Louisiana on our father’s side, have ministered to others, our flared nostrils hint of Spanish, hint of Italian, hint of Choctaw, and the rest belongs to Africa. [End Page 27]


One day is a door to open or a window, and even if, after all, we have to shut the window against the rain, or take off our hats to catch the kiss of a snowflake, we remember the dance that binds us in the trail of letters, cards, phone calls, emails.

Our deep regard or frostbitten gaze holds us fast on this shrinking globe where the mothers of New Orleans see the images of waters rising over Iwate and bless the daughters of Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, and Tokyo.

Beggaring hyperbole, we run, we weary, we sit down in the grass on the side of the mountain, we soothe our children, comfort our husbands, we wail or hum or watch. We shape our days, our days shape us.


Here’s a photo of us as four coppery brown pigtailed girls holding hands. What did we know then? What did we believe?


African violets for the eldest, blackthorn roses for the middle sisters, bird of paradise for the youngest whose robe is the color of the boronia.

We hold hands to bridge the distance between faith and fallibility. We pass on the dance. We pass the dance on. [End Page 28]

Hermine Pinson

Hermine Pinson has published three poetry collections, most recently Dolores is Blue/ Dolorez is Blues. She also released a CD, Changing the Changes in Poetry & Song, in special collaboration with Estella Majozo and Pulitzer-prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa. Pinson’s poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals, including Poedia Mundo, Commonwealth: Contemporary Poets of Virginia, Callaloo, Verse, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, African American Review, Konch, and Melus. Her most recent short fiction appears in Richmond Noir, and her most recent critical work, a volume co-edited with Duriel Harrison appears in a special issue of Valley Voices. She is currently working on a memoir. She teaches creative writing and African American literature at the College of William and Mary.