Last Witness to My Childhood

By on Mar 12, 2017 in Poetry

Girl on wheelchair on playground

Sister, I wanted a seesaw:
both sides taking turns, pushing the other up.
But your legs were never strong enough.
For years, I felt cheated,
like you’d swiped my favorite teddy,
hidden it inside your crooked spine.
Daddy said, “No, you’re the healthy one,
the lucky one. You can ride the swing
by yourself. Touch the sky with your toes.
She can’t, unless you help her.”

Now Daddy’s gone, Momma, too,
and we’re both too old to ride seesaws.

Sister, I learned to admire you
the day I saw you triumph in the shower
with only bars for assistance.
You taught me to value
my solid bounce on the stairs,
the privilege of parking in the back,
striding past the handicapped spot.

Sister, I learned that love
doesn’t have to be a playground.
It can be the shared history
of a house with a blue slate sidewalk,
summers weeding Daddy’s garden,
ground almonds in Momma’s pie,
puppet shows in the basement.
You’re the last witness to my childhood,
the last one who remembers
the green bathtub we shared,
family Scrabble games,
silly songs in the back seat.

And when I help you with your shoes,
fold your walker for the trunk,
I am the child who pushed your swing,
as Daddy asked. Except this time
my toes tingle, seeing yours touch the sky.


Jacqueline Jules is the author of the poetry chapbooks Field Trip to the Museum (Finishing Line Press) and Stronger Than Cleopatra (ELJ Publications). She has had over 200 poems published in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Killing the Angel, Soundings Review, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, Imitation Fruit, Calyx, Connecticut River Review and Pirene's Fountain. She is also the author of 30 books for young readers including the Zapato Power series and Never Say a Mean Word Again. Visit her website at