I met you when I was ten.
I watched you dance,
and wished that mathematics could move with such graceful lines.
You taught me how to stir,
but turned away when I tried to explain the beauty of division.
You didn't care how to turn remainders into decimals.

You and I danced for seven years—your feet became blistered,
but mine stayed white and soft.
I tried to be you.
I envied how carefree you were.
How you sang in the hallways. Danced in the road.
Your poise.
You walk into a room and charm it to you.
I marry myself with books. Not people.
My religion is science—yours is pure faith.
I wondered why you couldn't sit still—you didn't want to sit still.

I'm afraid to break the rules—you're afraid to live by them.
You care nothing of consequences—I pray to them.
We called ourselves dancers,
but you were the dancer, and the poet.
I was the mirror—reflecting—
I was the paper—absorbing—
I called you that night.
Because my intuition, born through your guidance,
felt it. I was worried.
Worried about Karen (your mother,
I loved, I adored—I was afraid you'd be. She
loved the world—but not herself.)
And I'm still angry at you. For not telling me, for
thirty minutes, you didn't
tell me she was gone. I didn't know.
I wonder—what were you thinking?
Were you scared? Did you scream God's name?
Did you shriek at her, ask her not to
reach her arms out to Jesus?

It started at the funeral—
I wasn't late. I wore a skirt too short—inappropriate—
the longest one I had. And a soft navy shirt, a gift from her.
My mom fought with me,
and I was withdrawn.
But neither did I—I knew—
I love her. And you. But I was ok—I recited logarithmic values.
I graphed the function of Mary's virginity.

You made me cry—as soon as I looked at you,
smiling your sparrow lips into some unknown radiance—I couldn't stand it.
Maybe I can forgive you,
for the fact you comforted me at her funeral;
even when you cried too, and I was thankful we had
this crying, me and you.

Your mother, like you, was an artist—
Coree and Lizzie danced for her—
(their bony bodies too angular in comparison, but
forming too well the grief on a shabby blue carpet.)
Gabrielle sang—
(her voice cracked once, but she hit
the final note, high and pure and infinitely clear.)
your Gamee read a poem she wrote—
("Karen loved Jesus/There's no doubt about that."
It lacked all rhythm but the shaking of her voice)
It was the most visceral type of love I had seen—
I grasped to understand it, wanting more than empty tears—
I thought of opposite integers, always coming out negative.
You must have thought of
minor chords.
Most awful, your little sister, not really understanding,
sang "You are my Sunshine."
Then, "America the Beautiful."

I can't decide if it's you I hate,
or me.
I can't be like you.
I can't be wild, take a risk, be bohemian.
And you don't understand—that's all you know.
And the hole was always there.
And I don't know what to do.
And I don't know what to do—when I love you so much—
but I can't stop you. From making mistakes.
From following your mother—drinking to disease—
from being yourself. You can't be me.

If it was based on a lie—my lie—should I just throw us in the trash?
Or try to salvage us—even when you don't seem to care?
The dancer and the mathematician.
I wish I could be like you.
I wish you could be like me.