Here is my sister, steady as a table, and this woman with whom she shares a meal of eggplant and snow peas is my mom. For the past few years, they have dined nightly like this. When my sister goes quiet, as she does tonight, green eyes staring like grapes, she is my father, and I become the youngest in the house, never mind the presence of my teen-aged nephew and my tiny daughter building towers of quarters together on the floor. In such times, my sister’s son turns into my brother, and thereby, my children’s uncle. My own brother, by his own admission, not to mention my mother’s, insists he and my sister should long ago have traded flesh. For a few years in the seventies, after our father died, he and I were, respectively, our mother’s mom and dad. Because time is one fierce wheel sprung from the trunk of a single bristlecone pine, back then, I was simultaneously my mother’s dad, my sister’s child, and my nephew’s sibling, even though he was decades from having been born, while my full-grown father was from what was basically day one the not-quite-son I never had. My smallest daughter behaves in a manner best described as grandmotherly. My oldest daughter, taller than I, wants to have a family bash honoring the hunch she is more or less a happily gay man swathed in an almost-woman’s body. On her eighteenth birthday – with only her boyfriend as witness – she wants to change her first name to Merganser.
Diane Raptosh has published two collections of poems, Just West of Now (Guernica, 1992) and Labor Songs (Guernica, 1999). She has a new collection of prose poems, Parents from a Different Alphabet, coming out through Guernica later this year. The winner of three creative writing fellowships from the Idaho Commission on the Arts, she teaches English and Creative Writing at The College of Idaho.