From this memory I move to commentary. The central image of my comment is based on the memory of my sister patiently and eagerly putting together 1,000 piece puzzles—something I would never do in my whole life—not even if you put me on salary for the time it would take me to do it. Julia had the mind for it. She had the will for it. In some sense Sightlines is the puzzle I constructed to answer the questions I pose here. It is my kind of puzzle.
She who loved puzzles, created one.
A family made with a shape cut out.
A family solving a puzzle with a puzzle-piece missing.
A family formed by a void around a dominant figure.
You cannot fill the hole.
Even graves don’t do that.
And, you cannot airbrush the ghost out of the family picture.
Of course, you cannot see the ghost in the photo even if you wanted to airbrush it out. The ghost is invisible. But, the ghost of the dead person being mourned is still present, anyway. The life of the ghost cannot by denied.
Who was I in this newly-configured family following my sister’s death? The answers were many, according to the needs and perceptions of each family member. I had been frightened to go back and spend such extended time—six to eight weeks at a shot—at the homeplace with my family of origin. But, a friend counseled me, “You deserve to know the truth about your life.” And, out of the truth I found in this going home and coming home, my book of poems slowly emerged.
The next three stanzas of the poem provide a survey of our year of external markers—the endless anniversaries that surface when someone you love is no longer there to mark them with you. They also give a survey of some of our internal markers as we go through our passage of bereavement, individually and together. If we were filming “Anniversary,” this section of the poem would be a montage of overlaid scenes and an underscore of music.