She paced the floor, hands wringing,
babbled to herself, sometimes tossed words
toward us that might or might not make sense.
Not unlovely, she hid her attractive figure
in simple cotton dresses, and coiled
her long, brown hair in an old-woman bun.
Floated in her own world, like a butterfly
in a conservatory, from one hallucinatory
bloom to another.
Diagnosed in her twenties,
logged some years in an institution,
recorded some progress, pronounced
harmless, but unable to live alone.
Parents gone, her elder sister
brought Dottie home to stay,
for both to exist on a seamstress wage.
Helena stitched a tapestry of hope-chest
dreams washed with drab colors of reality.
They braved the hard streets of St. Louis,
walked to town for groceries, other necessities.
Forgoing her own possibilities for marriage
and family, sister Helena plodded
through the rest of her life—housing,
clothing, guiding her sister, and listening
like a patient confessor to the endless river
of babbled, meandering words.