By: Claudia Ricci
Claudia’s poem “Praying for My Sister” is a stand-alone piece, however, once she submitted it, I asked her to write an introduction for the inspiration for the poem. Not because it required explaining, but to give readers and writers encouragement to write through their thoughts and feelings during difficult times.
Last September, the day before she turned 63, my sister Karen suffered a very serious brain hemorrhage. She required emergency surgery to remove a clot the size of a tennis ball from the left side of her brain. The doctors weren’t sure if she would recover from the stroke. Thankfully, she has done well in rehab, learning to walk again and to talk, with difficulty.
For me, there was only one response possible to this heartbreaking tragedy: poetry. It isn’t the first time that words have come to my rescue in a time of trouble. In 2002, I had lymphoma – I had a tumor the size of a cantaloupe in my chest.
Throughout the grueling chemo and radiation, I composed a collection of poems I called “Riding My Kite Through Lightning.” Those poems helped me to heal and to cope.
Poems to me are often like prayers. And so, today, I offer up another poem, hoping that words once again will work their magic.
Praying for My Sister
First, I remember this:
a vision of my sister
at maybe two or three.
She has chocolate hair,
cut in a bowl shape, and
a round happy face.
Later, when she outgrows it,
I will keep waiting for her to be
that sweet baby once again.
I am three years older than my sister.
One day, I am playing with my friends
down the street from the house that my dad built us
in Bristol, Connecticut when I notice my baby sister
making her way down the road.
I am horrified as she is naked from the waist down.
Barefoot too. A very devilish little grin.
I am wearing a navy blue sweater.
I race to my sister’s side,
rip off my sweater
wrap it tight around her bare backside.
Did I carry her home or lead her by the hand?
When I get there, my mother tells me
my sister wet her pants. Mom sat her on the
back porch without a diaper.
Fast forward through the hellish
months when she wore a diaper
and a feeding tube.
My sister’s hair is very short.
a brown helmet on her head.
That vicious scar
where there were three dozen bloody staples on her scalp
She learned to walk again.
She learned to speak.
Two weeks ago,
on a cold January afternoon,
I didn’t expect to find her
sitting in the pitch black
bawling like a baby.
I took her in my arms
and kissed her head
and fed her words of love.
If words could heal
I would write without
stopping I would kiss her
daily I would do whatever
it takes to make her remember
that infinity of love
that we were born with.
Come, now, say this prayer
that she may find the
spirit to believe in
to move her arm
And that she has the
the courage to open
her heart and grin.
Claudia Ricci, Ph.D., was a staff writer for The Wall Street Journal and a prize-winning reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, where one of her projects was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Her novels include:
- Dreaming Maples, published in 2002, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize
- Seeing Red, January 2011
- Sister Mysteries, July 2018
Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines nationwide.
Ricci spent 15 years teaching English and journalism at the University at Albany and was a visiting professor for one year at Georgetown University.
To order her novels, visit her website at www.http://claudiajricci.com.
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