My Sister’s Laugh

Derek Sheffield

When her dog charged across the lawn and bit my left thigh, I went sprawling, the frisbee skidded away, and my sister broke into a fit of her famous laughter.

Sweet Girl, that ghost-faced heeler she’d snatched from an abusive owner, trotted back to her side, side-eyeing me the whole time,

as all of it — her brother’s trophies, her sister’s starring roles, and her own everyday failures — came bursting out, loud, ragged laughs of fights, door-

banging divorces, and every last chance. She couldn’t help herself — her not-quite husband cracking another silver can, thinking obeast was a word

he’d like to keep using on her– my beautiful, sweet, desperately giving sister with her head flung back and whole body shaking.

In the silence that followed– her wide freckled cheeks gleaming where she wiped away tears– everyone returned to their hot dogs and salad, and on a foldout table the cake she’d bought for my birthday. And it all blew away through the tinkling clinks of a thousand empty bottles. To now.

Derek Sheffield’s collection, Not for Luck, was selected by Mark Doty for the Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize. His other books include Through the Second Skin, finalist for the Washington State Book Award, Dear America, and Cascadia Field Guide: Art, Ecology, Poetry. He is the poetry editor of and can often be found in the forests and rivers along the east slopes of the Cascade Range in Washington.