Robin Becker
Sisters in Perpetual Motion

Urban wanderers,

    unhoused and unhinged, they are rapt in

        a perpetual motion of paraphernalia


trundling from Kendall to Central, Harvard to Porter.

    One in a gentleman’s greatcoat—

       worsted gabardine and fur collar—


holds a sidebar conference with herself, pushes her metal

    shopping cart, argues with the invisible

       censorious judge of Mass Ave.


Parallel to traffic, she retains a centrifugal

    relationship to the lanes she occupies, strides

       away from the main, parent axis of rotation,


abjures public transportation or charity and returns,

    early evening, cold, coincident with those of us

       not charged with a dilemma of streets. 


She sleeps in undocumented doorways and on grates and

    in neighborhood parks on benches and propped

       on soiled cushions she pushes,


and even her sleep toboggans through the cantonments

    of temporary habitation. I wake in a white Victorian.

       She wheels her cart in time-lapse storefront glare.


Sponge of pocked foam bedding. Torn lining of a brown coat.

    Thus I remember my sister, her unbuilt days

    of compulsive walking before she decamped


to clinics and psych wards. Her walkabouts. Her unfettered speech.

    Her terrorist phone calls and the tyranny 

       of her jurisdiction: thus, beleaguered,


she engineered a siege and won. Timber up a frame dwelling

   I said. Explain yourself to yourself. In the end,

    the cops broke down the door of an empty house to find her.





Found In Volume 26, No. 04
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Robin Becker
About the Author

Robin Becker is the author of five collections of poems including The Horse Fair (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000) and the chapbook Venetian Blue (Frick Art & Historical Center, Pittsburgh, 2002).  Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Penn State University, she serves as Poetry Editor of The Women’s Review of Books.