"The Older Sister"

Written by
an AbleThrive community member
Content via Maria Palacios
Maria Palacios
Written by
an AbleThrive community member

Maria is an artist and activist in the disability community. She acquired polio at a young age and has been a wheelchair user for most of her life. Read Maria’s poem titled The Older Sister to get a perspective on how disability can affect sibling relationships - as Maria’s words to her sister are raw and honest.

picture of two sisters standing, one sister has arm wrapped around the other

The Older Sister

Growing up you felt

like you had to protect me

even though you were

three years younger,

and I had words

much bigger than yours.


You were the dream child…

the pretty one,

but I was the one with the brains,

-brains that were expected to compensate

for the legs that betrayed me.

The crazy things is that

as pretty as you were

and as able-bodied as you were,

you were the one who felt crippled.


I had grown wings of my own…

wings made of words

that let me escape

while you were caged

by feelings of exclusion

and the illusion

that I was more loved than you.


Looking back,

I can see why

you felt so abandoned and left out.

Everyone focused on healing me

and curing me

while your own wounds

bled silently

and you felt that nobody cared.

and even then,

when it could have been so easy

to despise me

and to envy me,

you poured love over my differences,

defended me from bullies,

hauled my wheelchair up a flight of stairs

as if you were superwoman

and otherwise acted like you were in charge,

and you were….and I

envied that

about you,

and resented you for being

my “protector”

because I felt you dismissed

my older sister status…and my big words.


But I guess,

all sisters tend to be like that,

wrestling with power struggles

and hats they compete to wear

and you

always wanted to wear

the bigger hat

the one that put you in charge

even if that meant being in charge

of a life besides yours.

I’ve had to teach you to step back

because although I may be your crippled sister,

I will always be

your older sister

and no matter

how able-bodied you may be,

you do not have the right to live my life…

not even

in the name

of love.


Thank you to Maria Palacios for sharing her poetry with AbleThrive. Maria is a poet, author, spoken word performer, public speaker, professional presenter and workshop facilitator, polio survivor and disability rights activist, and a mother of two. Her work is spirited by her own woman experience and embraces and promotes self-acceptance, empowerment, and social justice surrounding people with disabilities, gender and sexuality, teen girls and women, and a wide spectrum of issues as they relate to diversity. Her hopeful message of pride is consistent throughout her raw and often sensual work. Known in the artistic world as The Goddess on Wheels, her multicultural background and passion for onstage performance have come to life through numerous events over the years.

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