Sister (After Jamaica Kincaid)

After Jamaica Kincaid

By Sarah Arnett


Put your hard toys in the bin, and your soft toys on the bed; make sure you don’t swallow your bubblegum; only step on the sturdy branches when you climb a tree; tap the doorframe three times whenever you walk through because it brings good luck; this is how to clean a scrape from riding your bike; is it true that daisies will tell you if he likes you back?; no, baby, there’s nothing for that but time; don’t go looking for frogs, you might catch something; stop stealing my CDs; this is how to make a friendship bracelet; this is how to make macaroni and cheese for dinner when Mama doesn’t come home until midnight; this is how to make toast for breakfast when she doesn’t come home at all; this is how to write a boy a love letter; when he breaks your heart for the first time, this is how to burn the love letters that he wrote you; this is how to pump the brakes when your car spins out on the ice; only paint your nails red for Christmas, never for parties; is it true you’ve been kissing the neighbor boy?; this is how to look under your car as you walk toward it on dark nights so you can see if someone is hiding under it; this is how to carry your keys between your fingers; when you do laundry, always separate the whites and the colors; this is how to make a hangover remedy, and this is how to make sure Mama drinks it all; stop stealing my green sweater; don’t ever take a drink from someone if you didn’t see who poured it; this is how to throw a punch, no, don’t do it with your thumb inside your fist; soak your socks in vinegar to break a fever; put toothpaste on a burn to make it heal faster; stay inside and do your homework so you don’t end up kissing the neighbor boy; this is how to write an essay at 4 AM; this is how to braid your hair so it won’t get tangled at night; this is how to patch a hole in your favorite pair of jeans; when you’re in church, pretend to pray even if you don’t want to; stop stealing my lipstick; this is how to set a broken nose; what about a broken heart?; no, baby, there’s nothing for that but time; use a penny to check the pressure in your tires; this is how to cross your ankles when you wear a dress; this is how to walk in high heels; always carry an extra tampon in your backpack; don’t believe everything Mama tells you, even when she is sober; don’t shake your hips so much when you walk; this is how to make your eyeliner look even on both sides; this is how to avoid eye contact with the boys who look you up and down; this is how to do a waltz step; this is how to dance with a boy you like; this is how to tell a boy that you don’t like that you don’t want to dance with him, and if that doesn’t work, this is how to walk away.


Sarah Arnett is a junior creative writing major at Interlochen Arts Academy. She is from Castle Rock, Colorado. She is the winner of Albion College’s Charles Crupi Memorial Poetry Contest, and her work has been featured in the Albion Review and the Red Wheelbarrow. After high school, she hopes to major in neurolinguistics while continuing to write in her free time.