Poetry – Siblings

I have shot mine arrow o’er the house, And hurt my brother.
William Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’ (1601) act 5, sc. 2, l. [257]

Poems listed alphabetically by author in each category.

Sisters

One Sister Have I in our House by Emily Dickinson
Sisters by P. K. Page
To My Sister by William Wordsworth

Brothers

My Brother the Artist, at Seven by Philip Levine
O Brother Tree by Max Michelson
Brother by William Stafford

Sisters

One Sister Have I in our House
by Emily Dickinson 

One Sister have I in our house –
And one a hedge away.
There’s only one recorded,
But both belong to me.

One came the way that I came – 
And wore my past year’s gown –
The other as a bird her nest,
Builded our hearts among.

She did not sing as we did –
It was a different tune – 
Herself to her a Music
As Bumble-bee of June.

Today is far from Childhood –
But up and down the hills
I held her hand the tighter –
Which shortened all the miles –

And still her hum
The years among,
Deceives the Butterfly;
Still in her Eye
The Violets lie
Mouldered this many May.         

I spilt the dew –
But took the morn, –
I chose this single star
From out the wide night’s numbers –
Sue – forevermore!

Source: Dickenson, Emily. The Single Hound; Poems of a Lifetime. Boston: Little, Brown, 1914. pp. 1-2.
Emily wrote this poem as a gift for her sister Sue on her 28th birthday on December 19, 1858.

Sisters
by P. K. Page

They split each other open like nuts,
break and crack in the small house,
are doors slamming;
are gentle for their mother still and take
her simple comfort like a drink of milk.

Fierce on the street, they own the sun and spin
on separate axes and attract about them
the shrieking neighborhood of little earths.
In violence, hold hatred in their mouths.

With evening their joint gentle laughter leads
them into pastures of each other’s eyes.
Beyond, the world is barren. They contract
tenderness from each other like disease
and talk as if each word had just been born–
a butterfly, and soft from its cocoon.

Source: Poetry (December 1946)
© Poetry Foundation Thumbnail for version as of 20:27, 24 July 2007 Fair Use

To My Sister
by William Wordsworth

It is the first mild day of March:
Each minute sweeter than before
The redbreast sings from the tall larch
That stands beside our door.

There is a blessing in the air,
Which seems a sense of joy to yield
To the bare trees, and mountains bare,
And grass in the green field.

My sister! (’tis a wish of mine)
Now that our morning meal is done,
Make haste, your morning task resign;
Come forth and feel the sun.

Edward will come with you;–and, pray,
Put on with speed your woodland dress;
And bring no book: for this one day
We’ll give to idleness.

No joyless forms shall regulate
Our living calendar:
We from to-day, my Friend, will date
The opening of the year.

Love, now a universal birth,
From heart to heart is stealing,
From earth to man, from man to earth:
–It is the hour of feeling.

One moment now may give us more
Than years of toiling reason:
Our minds shall drink at every pore
The spirit of the season.

Some silent laws our hearts will make,
Which they shall long obey:
We for the year to come may take
Our temper from to-day.

And from the blessed power that rolls
About, below, above,
We’ll frame the measure of our souls:
They shall be tuned to love.

Then come, my Sister! come, I pray,
With speed put on your woodland dress;
And bring no book: for this one day
We’ll give to idleness.

Source: William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.
read more at: https://wordsworth.org.uk/blog/2016/12/25/romantic-readings-to-my-sister-by-william-wordswo

Brothers

My Brother the Artist, at Seven
by Philip Levine

As a boy he played alone in the fields
behind our block, six frame houses
holding six immigrant families,
the parents speaking only gibberish
to their neighbors. Without the kids
they couldn’t say “Good morning” and be
understood. Little wonder
he learned early to speak to himself,
to tell no one what truly mattered.
How much can matter to a kid
of seven? Everything. The whole world
can be his. Just after dawn he sneaks
out to hide in the wild, bleached grasses
of August and pretends he’s grown up,
someone complete in himself without
the need for anyone, a warrior
from the ancient places our fathers
fled years before, those magic places:
Kiev, Odessa, the Crimea,
Port Said, Alexandria, Lisbon,
the Canaries, Caracas, Galveston.
In the damp grass he recites the names
over and over in a hushed voice
while the sun climbs into the locust tree
to waken the houses. The husbands leave
for work, the women return to bed, the kids
bend to porridge and milk. He advances
slowly, eyes fixed, an animal or a god,
while beneath him the earth holds its breath.

Source: Poetry (January 2003)
© Poetry Foundation Thumbnail for version as of 20:27, 24 July 2007 Fair Use

O Brother Tree
by Max Michelson

O brother tree! O brother tree! Tell to me, thy brother,
The secret of thy life,
The wonder of thy being.

My brother tree, my brother tree,
My heart is open to thee—
Reveal me all thy secrets.

Beloved tree, beloved tree,
I have shattered all my pride.
I love thee, brother, as myself.
Oh, explain to me thy wonders.

Beloved one, adored one,
I will not babble of it among fools—
I will tell it only to the unspoiled:
Reveal to me thy being.

I have watched thy leaves in sunshine,
I have heard them in the storm.
My heart drank a droplet of thy holy joy and wonder,
One drop from the ocean of thy wonder.

I am thy humble brother—I am thine own.
Reveal thy life to me,
Reveal thy calm joy to me,
Reveal to me thy serene knowledge.

Source: Poetry (July 1915)

Brother
by William Stafford

It’s cold where Bob is:
I’m glad the rich have cozy
homes, and anyone can huddle.

Out there, it’s cold
and Bob has gone so far
no one in the world can hold his hand.

Such broken years as
he had, now belong
to others. I turn to them, to live.

But Bob was.
He lived.
I had a brother.

Source: Poetry (January 1967)
Read about William Stafford at: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/224
© Poetry Foundation Thumbnail for version as of 20:27, 24 July 2007 Fair Use