May Poems – Siblings: One Line, More or Less

Today is Poetry Friday, and Buffy Silverman is hosting with photos and a three-act drama mask poem about a hognose snake. 

In May I’ll be writing daily poems about my siblings, one line, more or less. I came from a family of seven siblings. Now there are only four of us left. In 2012, my oldest brother died, then in 2018, my oldest sister died, and last Sunday, I lost another sister. All have died without warning or illness. Judi just went in her sleep, and I am so sad. I’m going to spend this month updating this post each day with another poem remembering and honoring my siblings.

This one line, more or less process was inspired by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. See the description of her month-long one line, more or less poems here. and all her crow poems are here. Diane Anderson joined Amy’s challenge and wrote a daily poem about robins in April. Here are Diane’s poems at newtreemom.


Small house, six siblings, steady shenanigans


Five girls between boy bookends
Full house of playmate dividends



Rick, Lynne, Chris, Judi, Lori
Then came me, followed by Keith
Mom laughed with great joy (and fear)



Additions came, each nephew/niece contained
great hope and sustenance. Years of joyful gain.
Now I ponder losses; the inescapable pain
as I accede to this birth-to-death rhythm ordained.



Sisters and brothers abound
grow, move away,
still love



after all night shifts, she slept on the beach
we swam in the ocean; just
once I needed saving

my young lifesaver, wanting a reward,

(I guess) woke her up and told
the tale. “Thank you,” she said.



flying east
following love
“Do you want a return ticket?
Just in case?” my surrogate father
asked me.
big brother
love stays.



Happy you
laughing through
thoughts of time
glad to claim
not so tame
share the name

snam suad


Statin talk after dinner of steak
makes us think about the soundness
of our arteries. Loved ones
gone too quickly remind
us of life’s risk here
on earth. Playing



sister, more
than one should endure.
Swimming upstream alone
surviving abuse, widowed,
raising boys alone, losing dreams,
abusing alcohol. Lifelong rise
up to recover for one more dear day.



We’re dropping like flies,
we have been known to say
around here. My heart has sunk
into a deep wetland of tears and
sadness. Clearing the distant
memories, bridges between
earth and heaven. Thoughts of
you explode into this book
of your hidden life, endless
treasures of love continuing.
Your silent star shines.

Poetry Sparks

Sisters and brothers love’s boon
Life together as one invite
Argue or delight?
Both were normal
No thought of the mournful
end of the seven of us quite
Sisters and brothers

We didn’t always play in tune
but the bond stayed tight
and all seemed right
wondered I of death immune
Sisters and brothers

Rondeau Prime


You Were Always My Favorite

  • You painted my fingernails
  • You taught me to read using Go Dog Go
  • You and Ken came to my softball games
  • You worked as a telephone operator
  • We had matching dresses once
  • You brought K.C. into our lives
  • Your daughter Amy’s middle name is Denise
  • I got your room when you got married
  • My daughter Maria’s middle name is Christine
  • You would have been my kids’ guardian if we died

When You Weren’t

  • I cut my foot and you said, “You better not have picked a scab.”
  • You hit my head with the bristles when you brushed my hair.
  • You wouldn’t accept that my use of “Hilary’s word” deplorable
    could be a legitimate criticism of your candidate’s actions.

List poem


Rick was the father I didn’t know
Wedding day he walked me down the aisle.
Lynne married young and bestowed
Gifts like a rich Santa Claus–that style!

Chris is a sister so frank and refreshing
Now lives in Pennsylvania Dutch country.
Judi was a quiet, deep, book-loving blessing
She loved and valued others so humbly.

Lori is now my neighbor and friend
skillfully helped us remodel our dwelling.
Keith is the one on whom we depend
Loves to travel, in family ties excelling.

Six siblings had always been there for me
Three remain–relish each other is my plea.



She was born
in Gaza–
tiny spit
of land in
an at “home”
And I have
the birthright
to mourn the
loss of one
elder while
she loses


I remember just one family vacation
we took with my dad and mom and
six of us kids. (My older brother
was in the service, I think.)
We went to the Grand Canyon.
There were a few tiny
photographs of our trip:
Attending a pow wow.
Looking over the edge of the canyon.
Staying in a hotel with a pool.
Going out to a restaurant.
Then I remember I bought
two polished stones
at the gift shop.
When I was getting my hair brushed,
I dropped one and picked it up with my toes.

Where I start writing one less line each day…


My dad bought the little house
for my mom. Two bedrooms
in the suburbs. She wasn’t happy.
She had a son and two daughters
and one more on the way.
By the time I came along,
they had built another bedroom.
Eventually they pieced together
more bedrooms by transforming
the garage and laundry room
into two more. I remember a time
when all siblings were home
and rooms burst their seams.
As they married, we played musical
bedrooms, filling in the gaps.


Pink sky morning brings chirping.
Warming liberates reptiles
emerging from winter cold.

Hope in this new day will stay.
Lifetime bow of family
ties up love like rose-tinged clouds.

Queue up the crescendo for
dulcet and devout playing
on this blooming day in May.

Life is a bouquet of kin
to rejuvenate the soul.

septercet sonnet


We watch the quail as they
are ready for the first hatching.
Gleaners gathering seeds and also us,
who watch them noticing their
fill of the allurement of
the living. No need for a
barn or coop to raise their young.
For the green light of
the fragments of consequence, we
winter on through loss and ends.
That is why what
comes next is all a gift
on this mystic mansion of creation.

golden shovel

From Jack Gilbert’s poem “Moreover” this striking line: “We are gleaners who fill the barn for the winter that comes on.”


This journey is full and sweet
Thanks to those brothers and sisters
who shine in our life-creating, as
the abounding world glitters

stories of memory
stories of faith and joy
stories of unease
stories of safe convoys

We are finer for having had years–
years and days and moments
Together stronger, together better
Full with beloved proponents

Patrol Poem


In answer to your questions:

  1. Yes, thank you.
  2. Fine.
  3. Maybe.
  4. No, thank you.
  5. She’s doing great.
  6. His name is Randy.
  7. Thank you for saying yes.
  8. No.
  9. You know you left way too soon.
  10. We’re making it, but we miss you.

List poem  – (One time my brother wrote me a letter answering my questions with a numbered list of answers like this.)


giving partner.
You have become my balm for homesickness.
Notice, as you restore memories, that
more awaits you
A healthy

Double Tetractys


So many
birthday feasts
through the years

All nieces
and nephews

Life in this
Happy love



I never doubted your care
Everyday living conveys
faithful love and repair
of failures and hurts
Six humans: no compare
You were there for me
with kind and witty flair
We were gifted a graced way
to hold and love and share

Magic 9


Life is an obstinate investment
tended and nourished just so
in fidelity to hope’s assessment
Life is an obstinate investment
never subject to divestment
changes though ‘til time to go
Life is an obstinate investment
tended and nourished just so

triolet & Metaphor Dice


gift giver
birthday rememberer
Perfect book gift chooser for me
my whole life long. Continued with
my kids
then theirs



family and friends bring life and light
laughter, cooking, reminiscing night
fifty years, growing family bright
becomes future generations’ sight–
memories tucked away to fill the heart
with the thrill of love and hope done right

Hir a Thoddaid


time is short, slow down
no need to speed up to fit
everything in now
more is not always better
be all-in while we have time


my May poems are soon done
I have grown closer to you
My dear sisters and brothers
June rest now, thank God



memories and joy
mingle with sadness each day
but gratitude wins



Rick, Lynne, Judi are now gone
Four remain to life-treasure on

Memories pull my heart is full

23 thoughts on “May Poems – Siblings: One Line, More or Less

  1. What a beautiful way to remember your siblings. Love the bookend image, and all the ess sounds leading to shenanigans.

  2. I’m sorry. What a painful experience to lose those that have known you the longest. Who can possibly be ready for this stage of life? It requires so much more strength than I realized as a younger person. A line a day is such a tribute to the person who already fills your mind. What a tribute and way to honor them. Your siblings are fortunate you belong to them. “steady shenanigans” is a great way to begin…do you have a book in you?

  3. Oh the sibling shenanigans! I am one of 5 kids, and I have experienced some of my biggest emotions and learned some of my hardest lessons in relationship with them. I’m mostly grateful. Thank you for keeping your sibs alive in these poems. Keep going!

  4. So sorry to hear about losing your sister last Sunday. This May challenge sounds like a good one — for memories and honoring all your siblings. How lucky to have seven siblings. I have only one brother and am quite jealous. Looking forward to hearing more about those steady shenanigans. 🙂

  5. Denise, I am so sorry for your heartbreak and loss. It is wonderful that you are taking time to reflect and look back upon the best of times as well! I can’t wait to see how this effort progresses!

  6. I am sad for your loss of your sister Judi, so suddenly. I pray you and your family will be comforted in your grief.

    Writing about your siblings this month sounds like such a good way to remember. You already have a great start with sibling shenanigans, the boy bookends, and playmate dividends.

    Thanks for sharing the link to my robin poems. You are always so encouraging.

  7. I’m sorry for your loss, Denise. Daily poems about your siblings sounds like a comforting and rewarding project. You’ve gotten off to a great start! xo

  8. Oh Denise! My heart aches for you. I’m one of five and I cannot imagine what it will feel like to lose one of them. I hope your poetry brings a bit of comfort. Sending heartfelt hugs –

  9. I read this morning that grief appears in the space where love existed, so your post and the fledgling lines of your poem begin refilling that space with more love, Denise. Wishing you well on your May journey.

  10. Condolences for your loss(es), but also, what a fabulous way to preserve the memories that will ease (hopefully) the pain.

  11. Blessings for you, Denise, in this sad time. Saying goodbye to those closest to us is the hardest thing. Your tribute poems will create a lasting memory for those who are still with you, all the wonderful parts of a loving family. There are going to be some smiles as you write, like “Mom laughed with great joy (and fear)”. Thank you for sharing with all of us, too.

  12. Denise, my empathic heart weeps for you. Three siblings gone? Sweet Judi. This is a wonderful way to process your grief and honor your own life with such a large family. I love that first one, the alliteration of S’s and the great word shenanigans. Sending hugs from the swamp to the desert.

  13. Denise, I am so sorry for your loss of another sibling. What a great way to honor them all by writing a poem a week, one line more or less, to hear the thoughts you might speak. I love the lines for May second:

    Five girls between boy bookends
    Full house of playmate dividends

    It tells so much with so few words. Hugs again, dear poetry partner. I hope your writing provides an outlet for your grief. Take care.

  14. What an absolutely gorgeous way to honor your siblings, Denise. I’m the youngest of ten (seven girls/three boys). I can related to the “steady shenanigans” and ache for your losses. *Hugs*

  15. As an only child, I always wanted lots of siblings. This is a wonderful project, and I hope you’ll share some of the other poems, too. The opener—”Small house, seven siblings, steady shenanigans”—is terrific. My sympathies on the recent loss of your sister and the others.

  16. I think you are capturing your unique family and some family experiences that many of us share. Poem III made me think of my mother… and how she felt both joy and fear. She was so young when I was born (still a teen). Poem IV reminds of the life-death cycle we all must accept… I have gone through many losses, but I am blessed that I still have my siblings, and they live nearby. I love the conclusion of Poem V, the Elfchen, that home and family still hold love through all the growing and changing. When we have that, it sustains us through the inevitable losses.

  17. I’m so sorry for your loss, Denise. As others have said, this is a beautiful way to honor your family. I always think memories have the power to heal.

  18. I’m so sorry to hear about your sister and the recent losses of your other siblings. I love your idea about remembering them through your writing this month. I hope this process brings you solace, and I’m sure your family will treasure reading your written tribute as it unfolds.

  19. I’m so sorry for your loss! What a beautiful tribute in this series of verse.

  20. Denise, these poems are an amazing catalog of family life. I am amazed by the content, the variety of poetic forms, and the precision of creating a poetic family guide.

  21. Many layers of contemplation here… So sorry to hear about your sister. I hope your writing helps some, life is just too short, thanks for sharing.

  22. Denise,
    As promised, I read all these poems in one sitting. Took awhile! 😉 I’m so impressed you sustained the theme/tribute for 31 days and wrote in so many different forms, some new to me. The poems about loss, particularly the one about your sister’s alcoholism, a very touching. I learned so much about your family in these lovely poems.

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