The Shell Game
The girl in this picture has a ponytail.
Her face is stern.
She is collecting seashells on a deserted Hokkaido shore,
north of Hachinohe.
You see, the beach is littered with these shells,
she, tiny, picking her way among them.
This was my sister
before the sea swept her away.
I wanted to extract her from the photograph
before it was too late.
Next to it I pile up photos of the two of us,
trying to shift the balance
for that child on the shell-strewn strand,
but the wind is always blowing in these pictures
and they are in black and white.
She brought me her favorite stories to read—
The Five Chinese Brothers with the brother
who swallowed the sea.
My heart is the only thing left in our fish bowl,
a small red muscle circling.
She telephones from the peninsula
where she has a job cutting hair,
but she still hasn’t found an apartment.
on the beach,
I keep looking for her,
gingerly searching each shell.
—Linda Watanabe McFerrin