My Sister’s Last Gift

by Joe Benevento

Memories seem more fragile and so
authentic in black and white.  The photo
from 1957 Barbara framed for me
captures our Grandpa Frank's last
birthday: he sits all sides surrounded
rich only in grandchildren.
Among the fifteen present, the five
Beneventos born by then— Barbara, a favorite
at four on grandpa's lap— me, off to one side
crying, holding some little object I can't
now identify, hoisted up to camera range
by my smiling oldest sister Rose Anne.

Barbara herself never gave me the gift;
it was among the Christmas presents
in a padded envelope she still hadn't mailed
in February, that shortest month
when she died.

To receive a gift photo featuring
a man you never had time
to know, from a sister you will lack
for the rest of your loss-fueled life:
small wonder I'm caught a baby
crying forever in its small, dark