traveler chronicles: luminary

I journeyed to my childhood
and like a ghost of future past
haunted my younger
myopic attention-starved self

but my sister soon became
the object of my fascination
as a visitor to my own life
I saw plainly what I could not as a child
her intelligence
not mine
burned like a pyrophoric sea

mom and dad struggled heroically
to love us equally
a contradiction in terms
but they could hardly tamp down
their mystified joy with raising
an incandescent prodigy

for years I was jealous and cruel
breaking her models of feynman diagrams
tearing up pages of calculations
for her homework from her special school
and as my reward she made me my favorite cookies
damned snickerdoodles

I remained a bastard to her until
we careened into double digits
and like my parents I became fiercely
protective of her incendiary genius
like a caveman fanning a bonfire
because the penumbra of her success
lit us as well
and I had but a wan and faltering
flicker of my own to share

thus in my own self interest
I became her squire
carting her to her college physics classes
because she didn’t have her license yet
staying up into dark hours pretending
I had to cram like her
I did need to cram
but I didn’t give two beans about my marks
I had chosen my literature major because all it required
was reading novels I’d already read
and bullshitting when I hadn’t

books open across the kitchen table
like bowls of food at thanksgiving
I lovingly glibly told her sturdy but shopworn
tales when she wanted
a five minute respite from
the empirical strictures of science
that’s how she learned about king arthur
robin hood and the rude mechanicals
me telling her over cocoa
so long after midnight
in a low voice
as she stared at me wearily
night pressing on the windows