You wouldn’t pray: I need some humanity,
please send a mentally slow person into my life.
And you wouldn’t ask someone: please spend your life slow,
so I can learn.
She was always with me, from my first days,
from when I started talking before her,
from when she was a grade ahead, then the same, then behind,
before the days of special ed.
Passing me in the hall, her head bowed a bit,
her eyes would light with recognition of her younger sister, Hello Barbara,
Hello Jan, awaking me for a moment to her life
of negotiating bewildering halls, sitting dull in class.
We walk together. She is always a step behind. Barbara, slow down a bit,
and I do, and she is still a step behind no matter how slowly I go,
forever at my elbow, shadowing me, Barbara, slow down a bit.
But my job in life is speed, my job in life is to do for the two of us.
I take her with me wherever I go,
bring her along in my mind, the measure of us:
me with a family, she alone,
my promotion, her potholders woven at the clubhouse.
Oh, Jan, my brave sister, I am starting to hear you.
I am starting to hear you.