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Second Place • 2020 Poetry Contest

My sister doesn’t do sad.
She tried it on a few times,
   different styles, different sizes—
   nothing quite fit. Either too loud
or too dark, too tight or too baggy, she’d say.

But I think it was the silence of sadness
   she couldn’t size up.

See, she’s a musician and she hears
   B major the happiest of notes in her pink roses
   and she weeded out E flat minor (the saddest)
from between the beans
   because she lives
in the key of wonder.

When I was little, I watched her
practice piano on the windowsill before
   we got the upright
and now her fingers glide on the bass clarinet and she loves

parades and dogs and actors on stage.

She bakes toffee bars, chimes in at
book club, and will call you on the phone
checking in with perfect timing and then

   when it gets too quiet

she will sit at her kitchen table
and hand-write a letter

to a prisoner

so when it is opened, her cursive flows like a cello
deep and smooth making a little cell swell
words rise from the page
   like high notes of a flute

measure by measure
my sister’s drum roll of love

   piercing the
silence there.

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Kathryn Gahl’s favorite things (besides words) are cooking, humor, Feldenkrais, open minds, red lipstick, and dancing mad hot ballroom. Her awards include The Hal Prize for fiction and poetry.

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