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Callaloo 24.4 (2001) 1026-1027

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Forrest Hamer

My sister can take care of herself now. You should know that.
You should know that
when she was four, and always kind, and sometimes timid,
the women reminded us girls were different
from the tails and snails
my cousin Larry and I came from, the boys who acted
without thinking,
who raced each other all the time.
You should know, my friends, about that one Sunday morning
after a mindless rain when
the sun weighted
the sky, not at all the cool crisp silks
in my sister's hair, her white dress blossoming
crinoline from her waist,
the blue sky bodice she was
just before we noticed the car of white boys speeding down the wet road,
Larry and I leaping
quickly onto a path, my sister fixed
by the convertible then by a skirt
of mud their car swerved toward her to throw,
them screaming
away into their glee, no sound then
but the cracking fury in my Cousin Paul calling them dirty dirty dogs.
You should know my Cousin Paul stopped hiding from children
his griefs, and he lifted my scared sister
to deliver her
to the women who held her, changed her
into a dress for play, and let her keep on her going-to-church ribbons.
And you, my brother, my sister, [End Page 1026]
should know by now
what the women had been trying to teach me and my cousin,
that boys look out for all of their sisters,
slow down, prove
you could once again be trusted.

Forrest Hamer is a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, and a practicing psychologist in Oakland, CA. Call & Response (1995) was his first collection of poems, followed in 2000 by Middle Ear.



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