Shooting My Sister By the Inner Harbor

by Reilly Cox

after Saeed Jones

•        When my sister cries, she takes photographs of herself.

•        That is when I feel most beautiful, she says, sipping her coffee.

•        My sister also finds beautiful: collapsing row houses; shirts with stars on them; and vitiligo.

•        Vitiligo being a condition concerning the pigments in skin.

•        Setting down her coffee, my sister stretches her hands and imagines her skin rippling with color.

•        Colors of my sister: brown (her eyes); galaxy (her shirt); polluted sunset (her hair).

•        Two people with blue eyes cannot have a brown-eyed child.

•        Blue eyes being a recessive gene.

•        This is one of two statements made by my father’s mother to my mother.

•        The other being, If Robert ever lays a hand on you, you can stay with us.

•        My sister makes her living making coffee for strangers.

•        Often, she will absorb so much caffeine through her skin that she will shake.

•        I asked Poppy about it, she tells me.

•        Poppy referring to my father’s father.

•        ‘Well of course you’re not one of us- look at you,’ Poppy said.

•        He referring to her brown eyes and thick hair.

•        Watching ducks shit, we sip our coffee on a bench and wait for our brother to join us.

•        He having been indisposed with women.

•        This being a result of how his eyes will shift from blue to green with springtime.

•        So, don’t tell mom, but I contacted José, my sister starts.

•        Bio dad, she offers to my confusion.

•        I’m going to call him later, she says. After my shift.


•        That night, my sister calls up José and hears for the first time in her life her father’s voice.

•        His wife and two children asleep, he speaks softer than Havana the morning after independence.

•        Your mother and I went back to the hotel and we made love, he begins, and my sister becomes a forced voyeur to the start of her life.

•        The next morning, I had asked her to come with me to New York, he says

•        To start a life.

•        José says, In Tucson, on the mountain, she kneeled amongst the agave and mallow, and I shot her like that.

•        When I developed the photograph, the land looked as if it were on fire.

•        Professional grade film comes on rolls of thirty six shots, which leaves thirty five other photographs from that night, that morning.

•        For instance: my mother covering her face with her hands.

•        On the phone, José hangs up, and my sister feels cacti blooming in her belly.

•        She cries, trying to flood a desert.

•        She shoots herself like that.

•        In Baltimore, in the darkroom, my sister lets her face swim in solution until she is nothing but light.

University & College Poetry Prizes Page