Because I am oldest
by Trish Hopkinson

I sit in silence,
my hands in my lap, like sleeping kittens,
the cold metal of the unfolded chair
beneath the backs of my knees.
Many rows of mourners
separated me from the casket.
I am brave. I have to be—
I’m older than my brother and sister.
I was the only one who understood,
the only one who had known
Great Granny.

I think about her house—
the story of how she still used an outhouse
until right before I was born,
how I used to sit on a quilt
on the long grass, playing Canasta
with the grownups last summer.
I sit in sadness—I know
my baby sister will never
have her own Baby Bonnet quilt
sewn by Granny. I know
I am special, because I do.

People always cry at funerals.
I know why. I know they will miss her
and that she is gone. But I am the oldest—
I am not going to cry. Mommy
asked if I wanted to go up and see
her laying there, look at her
one last time. I don’t want to,
but I don’t want to forget her,
so I did. Standing stiffly at the edge
of the casket, the tears well up
into a lump in my throat I don’t have
the strength to swallow.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author as a young girl.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Because I am oldest” encompasses the pride and responsibility I felt being the oldest of four siblings.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Trish Hopkinson has always loved words—in fact, her mother tells everyone she was born with a pen in her hand. She has two chapbooks Emissions and Pieced Into Treetops and has been published in several anthologies and journals, including The Found Poetry Review, Chagrin River Review, and Reconnaissance Magazine. She is a project manager by profession and resides in Utah with her handsome husband and their two outstanding children. You can follow her poetry adventures at trishhopkinson.com or on her Facebook page: facebook.com/trishhopkinsonpoet.