Favours

The night they finally called to diagnose the virus,
The phone went unanswered; my sister, manic among the scraps
And samples in her sewing room, laid out the fabric for my wedding favors.
I thumbed through the harlequin patchwork, flipped lazily through the assorted
Remnants of satin and silk, as my sister lit herself another cigarette
And filled me in on the current trends; tulle was classic, but uninspired,

And gingham was kitschy, but all the rage this year. She seemed uninspired
By my pick, a retro checkboard pattern in cotton, but the virus
Had made her uncharacteristically complacent. In that room, the smell of cigarettes
Thick in the air, she seemed most herself; at home among the motley scraps
Of fabric, not lost, as she so often seemed, amidst the bottles of assorted
Pills that cluttered every other room in the house. She had always favoured

Solitude, the sewing needle over the coffee klatch, which made the favour
She was doing me all the more surprising. She claims she’s felt uninspired
Lately, and that taking on a project could help, but as she flips through assorted
Inventory order forms, looking for the fabric’s pattern number, I can see the virus
Taking hold in the tremors in her fingers, in the bruises on her arms. She’s scrapped
Her last few deadlines, dropped clients and snuffed out orders faster than cigarettes,

But there she was, reading glasses tucked into her hair, unashed cigarette
Dangling from her lips, as she measured and tooks notes, and promised the favours
Would be done on time. My sister was older, but had always been small, a little scrap
Of a thing, but when she hugs me goodbye, she seems for the first time uninspired
By the spark that had always made her so much larger-than-life despite her size. The virus
Has done what nothing else ever could. I hold her gingerly, exchange assorted

Pleasantries and platitudes, promise to call her soon, and she responds with assorted
Non-commital answers – if she’s not busy, if she has the time. The glow of her cigarette
Burns like a star in the dark as I head to the car. As I pull away, emptiness, like a virus
Spreads through me. In a few weeks, the package will arrive, the checkerboard favors
Like little treasures, with a note written with forced non-chalance – “Not exactly inspired,
But I hope they will do.” Her handwriting will be shaky, and the paper will be a scrap

With a prescritption penned on the reverse because she’s forgetting, now, to scrap
The evidence of her own fraility. She’s grown tired of hiding the various and assorted
Trappings of her own mortality, and when the package arrives, I will take it as the inspired
Swan song of a life so elegantly spent. The morning of the wedding, she lit her last cigarette,
As the guests made a point to compliment me on the elegance and simplicity of the favours,
And I sing my sister’s praises as she slowly succumbs to the virus.

You never asked for any favours, nor a scrap of pity; and you inspired me with your ferocity,
Your fiery passion for your work. Assorted doctors swore the virus would snuff you out like a candle.
But I watched you burn slow, the way you savored your cigarettes, alight until the very end.