The Endurance of Memory

My sister Laurene at twenty returns as a vision:
a young bride, slender in a blue suit
carrying a simple bouquet of white flowers.

It’s May 31st, the 35th anniversary of her death,
warm and sunny in the Gulf South as hurricane
season approaches. I am not surprised

by this image, remembering her years before
she bore four children and suffered the devastation
of breast cancer and its metastasis, gnawing

her bones, invading her liver. Each year
on this date, I remember it is the Feast
of the Visitation, that Catholic celebration

of the greeting of Mary, soon to be the Mother
of Jesus, and her cousin Elizabeth, pregnant
as well with a son, the prophet John the Baptist.

Truth is revealed each year in this concurrence
of dates, how one marks a death that left me bereft,
the other, promise of life and salvation.

Each Feast of the Visitation, scriptural
readings depict again the greeting of Mary
and Elizabeth, a recurrent reminder of graced lives.

Each year I remember my sister’s pain, the time
we rode in a taxi to the hospital for her blood
infusion, her stomach swollen from toxins.

She could joke even then how the driver
might believe her pregnant, would speed
lest the infant be born in his back seat.

Stella Nesanovich

Stella Nesanovich is the author of two full-length collections: Vespers at Mount Angel and Colors of the River and four chapbooks of poems. Her poetry has appeared in many journals and magazines and several anthologies and has been featured on American Life in Poetry. She is Professor Emerita of English from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where she has lived since 1982.

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