la disparition

I challenge myself to write about you without sadness

without loss, without keening

instead, observing joys, even bite-sized beguilements

like the time you danced and all the things you’d said

about being a great dancer, were true

and everyone watched like you had broken out in flames

I wanted to go around saying “yeah, I’m her daughter.”

Perhaps in a cliched way you were the prototype

for all the women I admired afterward

they had to have your grace, knowledge and small shoulders

how you wore high-waisted pants like a Charlie’s Angel

curled the aserbic wit of your interstellar mind like wreaths of smoke

I didn’t feel I could compare, with my ordinariness, unlovely

how bland my straight hair and white knees

to your brown arms draped in gold and the sheen of your afro

you bought me my first perfume at 12 and a little compact with

lipgloss & that weird shiny eye cream everyone wore back then

it looked a fright with my blanche complexion just as

your comb didn’t get through my tangles and my brush

snarled your varnished ringlets

I could only grow onions in my window, it let in so little light

whilst you faced the sun and had avocados and bay

you showered whilst I bathed, the slow dissipation of people

in that we were always separate, clashing before learning

to describe estrangement & nostalgia when we ought

to have embraced and eaten crepes with chicory & coffee syrup

I remember you wearing a t-shirt as a dress

with a lamé belt and Souliers Adige sling-back heels

how you’d walk into a room, all 5’3 of you and knock em dead

big things come in little parcels that’s true

playing the piano under the stars at the Lamonts

“les Shadoks” in the background, kids shrieking

in OshKosh, drooling Pommac, half-enraptured by

your profonde vocals like you’d chewed on cigars

cooking Kamounia or Potatoes Dauphinoise

the flick of your wrists, a hundred herbs like poison rings

grown men would cry over your food like it

opened gateways to heaven, glugging Chateau Lafront-Rochet

they’d stare at you like no man has ever stared at me

and rightly so; transported gypsy, jet locket against your clavicle

roaming in terraced houses like a lost treasure, too exotic

for suburbia or even Paris, les yeux en amande, you left a trail of admirers

including me, when you ran off to the bright lights

never looked back, trailing lipstick on ironed handkerchiefs

that smelt of cumin and frangipani, your 30 franc, copy of Rue des boutiques obscures

pressed flat under a wooden box of turkish cigarettes

little marzipan figurines wilted in Summer

when you sent postcards in your bold cursive script

I traced the hearts like tattoos and sniffed the edges

of your hand-me-downs, like by smelling you close

you were accessible, out-of-time, like saying une vedette in the 90’s made no sense

a girl speeding down roads in a silver Porche

a woman commanding others in Moroccan pants and certitude

the remnants like kilim rug whispers at the end of a record

when all you think you hear … is static

I’d read the books you’d read thinking

maybe I’d grow up to inherit your smarts

or the polyglot tendencies of your desegregated genes

speaking different languages in a multitude of countries

you said I shouldn’t try to emulate but it was hard

we look piercingly into shadows when our eyesight is poor

I listened to your music and traced the window ledges

where you contemplated jumping, as you chain smoked

watching drab rhododendrons fill the air with cat piss

the neighboring woman hanging underwear on a sagging line

the color of cold tea

I knew even then

like the burgundy roof top foxes

you’d been priming to leap

and I couldn’t blame you a bit

you remind me even now

of a velvet collar

worn only to fancy events

if lucky enough

to be invited

little pearls sewn in a semi-circle

when around your neck

they shiver

as if still urging to return

to the sea

trethevy quoit

Stand here

moss washing over rock

hands in time

I think of all who have passed through

their atoms blessing sky

if you were here with me

your Irish bones and Welsh soul

how many years will I wish

you were with me

this girl of shifting blood

drawn to the pasture lands of Cornwall

more than any purposing Chaîne des Puys can evoke

the Sioule wrapping herself between empty valleys

or the sorrow of les Pyrénées, a gentle horror

languishing in Cathar country

their ghosts stumbling between worlds

I never belonged in those spaces

memory an acerbic ¿Cómo se dice

*as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods

just as I do not now, own a home

in the barren tumbleweed of Texas

unattached, they call it ‘winged pigweed’

even as we sneeze it away to carry on

lonely pilgrimage amongst spoiled tarmac

perhaps it wasn’t even trethevy quoit

but you, and your pure love

filling me with a peace

I have not possessed since

(*line taken from King Lear, Shakespeare).

Ecstasy

When labels were collars around necks

ruffled, feathered, leather, yoke

you were either ‘gay‘ or you weren’t

I was. And I fell for a man.

Boy really. Once. Only time.

Hips smaller than mine, delving into my bones

like cream poured through coffee we burned calcium

our former labels damp at the door.

The value of a woman is in her smell

the rustle of her soul, how gentle and tough

merge together into womanhood

he was none of these

acrid, funny tasting (masculine?) Sinewy arms wrapping around

like a lost bear it didn’t feel ‘right‘ it didn’t feel ‘wrong

we were very young, his mind on fire trying to figure out the world

popping little tabs like they could pause time

because God, someone had to.

In Winter’s loose ends, we holed up at his brother’s flat

half-Thai eyes and burnt toast skin, along with the tang of marijuana

it’s hard not to fall for genius’s and sexual beings with magnetism in their lips

we lay in the dark, he emulated a girl and then became a boy

shadows on the wall, male, female, something more

I clung to him through torrent, it didn’t feel ‘wrong‘ it didn’t feel ‘right

night stretched out in submission, he loved me being a woman

in ways maybe another woman never has

joined we were, hard to separate, laughter, solace, grief, shards of joy

his body sleek like a girls, hard to accept the difference, I looked away

feeling him move inside me like a word

aching for punctuation.

I felt like a woman, a woman, a woman

contrast, a figure of eight in reflection

kinder than any girl I knew, smarter than any other human

a girl will touch your breasts with knowing, then ask you to find her bra

he brought me gypsy guitar and red wine and sucked until I screamed.

Dancers, we, danced in detail, scratching out labels defining

what this was, who, what?

I didn’t love him, no. Love an underdeveloped muscle

in a closed box, only women and their sharpness can pick

he searched my face, my breasts, my thighs, for signs

of relenting, wanting to bury himself within, become one

stay together, two cusps, why not? Be mine. Marriage

some papered form of devotion. Not ownership, just need.

I wanted to give him a child then, birth it

right there on the futon, beneath moon, hollering; “eat me until

I become glutted on your goodness,” We shook together

a ritual, procession into silvered ore earth’s center

letting go, the child came, bidden, quickening, like opening

your mouth and accepting change, drink me down

between my legs, the writhe of us, male/female/female/male

losing edges, the blurred outline of pretense.

We woke when the light came

to an empty room

nothing left of us to consume

just condom wrapper

unused by the bedside

and life in my belly rounding music

he wore my silver ring

I told him, don’t cut your hair

remember nothing

we walked in opposite directions

he took a bus

I, a train

he never knew I took him too

in my belly, quiet and full.

reminding themselves they can still fly

Only so much can be said of birds, or landscapes

yet grief? Grief is a world incapsulated in a tear

held to the sun and magnified, its kaleidoscope of color

without end

and while you may see me sitting at this table

with dried flowers catching wan Winter sun

my face a careful study of emotion beneath surface

I am actually at this very moment

lying on the unwashed floor

feeling cold tile invade my pores

just like the virus who crept into my stomach

changing everything like zealous house cleaner

see, on the floor I can curl up like I did as a child

pretend I am a dragon again, where ageing and its horrors

or just the spite of unbidden sickness

will not come for me, because I am no longer real.

The sun light will fade and with it, shadows come

reminders of our ephemerality

a dance with what is and what is no longer

the ghosts of my grandparents waltz beneath pear trees

their necks bent to dark skies, mouths slack with amusement

I thought then, nothing could disturb the fabric of the world

because youth told me so

and lies were easy to sew

delusion, such a merry friend

now it is not as easy and like them, my mask grows weary

often wishing to climb into bed and read

stories of others who have lived and died

sitting at tables, lying on floors, looking upward, open mouthed

finding ways to express the horror and brief respite

of coping with pain

I so admire those souls who laugh

though I suspect sometimes they simply do not think

of how things really sit

and that’s all right

because there’s no one way

of getting through this

the birds, maybe they know other means

perhaps that is why they migrate and it is has

less to do with warmth and more to do with

reminding themselves

they can still fly

(Expecting To Fly, by Buffalo Springfield, one of the best songs of the era https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzMl0-bhNcM&t=25s)

Not a lot

Some of the forgotten towns

circling big cities, lone wolves

warming fur against bright lights

wear their bleakness like a flag

the emptied streets at night where

no merriment is found, kids have

climbed aboard their bikes and motored

through snow if necessary, to escape

into the cold clutches of wine and euro-pop.

The touring people who do not live in these towns

glamorize by proxy

their little steeples, the preserve of history

how charming graffiti looks in a foreign language

they do not see behind the doors

into a teen world of preparedness

all who will flee when time comes

somehow, make their empty pocketed way

to bigger cities, offering the solace of

24 hour misery

surely it beats

sleeping in your childhood cot

listening to your parents snore

inching closer to a local grave plot

they put their heads in bags of glue

just to feel like they are from somewhere else

finding it a marvelous irony

when their frigid mountain town is named

‘best hidden tourist spot’

by those who are also in their own ways

trying to escape

their stifled lot

Distorted from downpour

Without you there, rubbing against my emptiness

I am a scream

begun without end

I may close my mouth

I may purse my lips and paint them

I may say yes please and thank you very much

and still dial your number

that no longer exists

just to hear it ring

in my mind

once

twice

three times

it may be you

on the other end

picking up, I can hear the lint

of the connection stretching like walkers on wire

a crackle, a fizz, the ghosting hiss of you

what are you saying?

Rolling down bled city streets with lights

hanging like old bottles, catching stray saline

I strain to hear

through ceaseless whiteout of rain

it is yellow against brown glass

distorted from downpour

slapping wetly in time to lost rhythm

pirate radio in storm, trying to reach land

crackle, fizz, pop, static … spreading her fingers

we danced on these steps

in our best clothes

with bare feet growing dirty

and it was then

as you spun hotly beneath your wool coat and laughed

your iris neck bent in grace

as elegant a thing I ever saw

dissolving through time into ushered coffin

we are still

on the phone trading jokes

switching out rolling papers with blackened tongues

I hear you sigh

as reedy and deep as mislaid wine

tap your cheap hoop earring against the line

hello? Hello? What’s that you say?

Now that you are out of the box

I think I shall remain within

for it is easier to sleep by these four corners

of memory

than try in unremitting rain

to go on without you

Je suis désolé de n’avoir pas été comme tu

For

what seemed like forever

and was perhaps

some lost sand

sifting through light

slower when observed

turning like eager sun dial

face capturing shape and shadow

as the moon faced women

blue in Picasso’s rough brush

your edges sleek impossibly

by Masters deft curve, mimicking

nature readily, surely as time will

erode the fullness of our cheeks

your high bones hold you up

that half smile imperceptable

through memory shaking her

coat free of rain drops

as we drift further into long night.

I recall being good at Tug of War

in school with my artex white shirt rolled up

the thin fabric of my skirt flapping

dangerously high, leaning in for the pull

boys on the other end heaving, purposing

(this was always about more than a rope you know)

their extraordinary need to dominate and

our quiet, tugging urgency to defy

even then I might have upset the historical balance

made you proud, if you’d been watching

the length of rope dipping into glassy water

with the weight of decades, days spent

trying to form words of consolation where none

seem worthy enough.

You have slim bones that cannot pull heavy

rope from weighted oceans and even if

your arms were strong, I wonder if you would

gather me to you, within the eye of rushing storm

our fragile satellites eclipsing, resolving

sorrow with gentle grace, unleavened bread

yet to rise

to feel your perfumed palm on my forehead

the beneficence of your gaze, or hear

your voice, its sonorous depths, call for

me and gladly, I would present myself

for any time in your light is time lived

well and good and whole.

in your absence there is only

shadow and cold

reminding me, estrangement is unnatural

when it pares two segments of the same orange

apart, with no mend, balm or eulogy

great enough to salve the hurt

building within us, mountains of

dried salt from spent regret grown

dry.

I long and shall always long

to return to you

in that hour where memory

tells me

we laughed and

in your eyes I saw

my center

verdant and blooming

with the tender cobalt nectar

reserved for what can never

be replaced.

Never look back

Amidst worry, distraction, hunger, noise,

there is the brand, the scorch of you

sealing me in wax

pressing me to Florentine paper

sending me by leathered mail

with a longing as woven

as pulp that becomes a letter

writing out felted words

my throat cannot swallow.

The world is burning, in once-removed chaos

I find an unsteady peace, imagining us.

Everything is flammable, people smite each other

with little tools and heavy words

we forget our humanity often

we are caught with our pants down

jacking off to lies & hate in little jars

sometimes it seems the world would fair

better without our penchant for harm

but we subsist, in fragments, shards, pieces

of goodness separated and flung apart.

I should be considering the state of the planet

why it’s searing in October, why people

shoot someone for the color of their skin, how

evil can stand in White Houses and other

necessary questions …

but for this cupped moment, I am idle in my desire to save

not a lack of caring, but rather

the need to step outside the fray and

stand in the rain with you .

The rain here is warm, before we met

I did not know rain could be warm

I lived in a concrete trap with sad faced

buildings that many would give their eye

teeth for and I wished passionately, to escape

from

there was no softness in the city of my birth

no reduction of clamor

we spun like dervish on a wheel

forgetful of what mattered in the perpetual lean

to survive

I am here with you now, although

we are often not together, in my etched soul

you hold me every night and the candle

I placed in my window does not go out

for it burns eternal.

A song will reduce me to tears, driving wet

cheeked and aching for your touch, the surround

of your movement against me, a kiss that consumes

my cold center, turns me to the moon

shining and nude.

We are shimmering fish beneath dark water, finding our way

with our mouths, our fingers, the brail of need

containing sea pearls ready to sacrifice their shell

only you can lift me away from

the sorrows of the world and our many

pitted attempts to remedy what seems to be

our nature

only you can run yourself down my stomach

and opening me like a fan, find within, my

raw chorus

only you, with your pitch eyes and raven heart

can cause me to tumble, weightless over white cliffs

into our own private film

playing the days of our lives, for an empty house

the tick of our time, slowing now.

I should clean my teeth, brush my hair, push my

cuticles back and cross my legs in public, but for

the need to wear no hose, and driving 70mph down

empty streets, push you into me, finding

piano keys beneath our lilting surface.

By day I am a plain-faced woman with

ill-fitting bra and the marks of time sponged

on my face like imprints from a wild cat

who walked over me once, twice, forever

as you pull me from the world with your

electricity and I urge you

implore

to not

to never

look back.

The night I went out without shoes on

Wasn’t it a miracle?

Neither of us died trying to get to the meeting place

all the lights in the world seemed out that night

I had only known how to drive a few months

you were an old hat who routinely broke laws

with bottles wedged between your legs, a

cigarette burning ash down your fingers

there had always been a desire in me

for brokenness, as if I recognized in those

souls, something in myself

or a freedom in people who abandoned ettiquette

and discarding it, became suddenly free

I liked the wild, I liked women with untamed eyes

and dirty minds

the moon was full that night and we watched owls

gather themselves in flight and swoop

cloudy restaurant lights flickering in and out on the side

of the empty high way

I had watched films about a life like this

I said to you, films like Gas Food Lodgings or Paris Texas

where the greatest landscape was the tarmac

and the wide abundant merciless sky

where people sheltered in shadow and night creatures

crawled unseen and women met by closed restaurants

the flicker of their 24 hour advertising, sizzling against blackness

you were strange looking as if you had

deliberately tried to destroy yourself and I

forgot to wear shoes, my feet hot against still baked

soil, biting fiends flying in humid air, thick with ‘unspoken

entreaties

I wanted you to slam me there and then against

the unresisting brake of my car

leaving a bruise the size of texas clouds

I wanted to break apart like rocks with gem stones

inside, find something in both of us

bigger than the sky, deeper than weary darkness

but I was too young then and fear wrapped herself

like a blanket of stars and pulled me back

into the world, into doing what is right, into being careful

and sitting up straight when you eat at the table

all these years later, I still think

if we had set the car on automatic and just ridden

away

down that empty highway, into hushed, blooming night

we might have found the part of us

still lacking

every day we wake up

wash our face, comb our hair

and look too long in the mirror

searching for the lost parts

of our dark dreams

And tell her to stay

cotton-in-braille

My mother sits on the side of the bed, it is 1980 or 1999 or never or sometime in the seventies or perhaps she’s not really there …

Her indent remains after the door closes, after the light is extinguished in the green hall way, where usually people go to sleep and she goes away, away, away …

Even then I could not see well, I squint into the half light, I look at the painted gypsy caravan wardrobe my parents picked up in a flea market before I was born, the cheap thin wood which now, years later, would be considered ‘antique’ – oh the absurdity of those things.

I think of them, crouching on elastic knees, abundant youth, painting, red and blue and yellow. I think of the song I learned in nursery about a rainbow, I think about gays appropriating rainbows later on and how ‘gay’ is not how most of us felt. How appropriation is always ironic.

When I began to stop wetting the bed, my father bought a calendar and stuck it on my wall, he would let me stick stars on the days I did not wet the bed, when I got enough stars he said, something great would happen. It had to be better than the machine I’d had the year before that ‘buzzed’ when I wet the bed and woke me up. I didn’t see how sesame seeds and electric buzzers would stop any child peeing in their nightmares.

A week later I opened my curtains, there was a stuffed toy rabbit on the windowsill, it was slightly damp from being there all night, and it smelt like fur and home. I still have it. It still has me. I never named it. How do you give a name to the earning of pain?

We lived in a basement, it was moldy in the Winter and cool in the Summer. I couldn’t see the sky, I grew to like the idea of living underground, of burrowing deep into the earth beneath city concrete, where the bodies murmured against river mud. I believed in Ghosts. Ghosts most certainly believed in me, they were my companions.

They shimmered past in half-light, caught in doorways and shining windows and dour corners. They contorted into devils by the astigmatism of my eye, becoming faces with fangs, fingers reaching upward. I wondered even then, why I feared the unseen more than the seen. Why what was not real felt more real than real? How ghosts could become my torment, when the world outside felt equally remorseless? Why not put them away and tackle that which existed? Perhaps that is exactly why. For a child who did not know how to make things right.

My wardrobe was little for a child, I was little for a child, my bones were plastic and breakable, they snapped when I folded myself tightly into corners, and the four cheap velour rabbits bought one Easter sat alert and watchful on the windowsill with a half moon shining in and lighting the face of the wardrobe into a grimacing creature.

The rabbits and I heard things. We saw things. Through bad eyes and deaf ears. The sound of my mother leaving, her presence skirting the room like a flamingo dancer, her lithe form, her long graceful arms with impossibly thin wrists, the smell of her on my skin because I was born of her, and then born not at all.

A clock did not exist on the wall, it did not tick down time, it did not remind us of what we had lost, it was not there, it left only the outline of its being like a circle set by sunlight on fading paint. A sundial without hands, without notion of time. Existing as planets exist, not realizing they circle the other.

My clothes grew tight as I elongated and sloughed the years, I kept an empty bottle of my mother’s eye make up remover by my bed, it smelt of her, as her hairbrush did, I wondered how she could live without her hairbrush. I did not wonder how she could live without me.

The tenants of the tall building were unhappy and they smiled a lot to cover it up. They said things like; We will be glad to look after your little girl. When my father cycled away, relieved, lighter, seeking a woman, seeking freedom, I stood on the doorstep and watched and the ache in my chest felt like a piece of lead piercing unnamed parts and I thought of my mother, how when she was my age she watched her parents sail back to Africa whilst she stayed still and I realized … how she and I were interchangeable and only the years were different.

Once, my mother said her mother put perfume on a handkerchief and left it for her and she kept it under her pillow. I kept my mother’s hairbrush under mine, it smelt of the oil of her curly hair, and the damp of my tears and the dust of time, sweeping her skirts along the empty floor.

I am alone now. As I was then. It feels the same. It feels worse because there is no illusion. Nothing like the future to hide behind and solace yourself with. No ‘things will be better when you grow up’ after you have grown up and realized they are not.

Again we are back in my bedroom. She is standing up. She is sitting down. The moment of her departure is fuzzy like my eye sight and I tell her, in years to come I will lose my eye sight and you will gain yours and my father will still be cycling away not knowing they piled on top of me and beat me to pieces, or that three little boys could throw marbles so viciously until a little girls heart burst and she ran away.

She turns to me and says something but it was twenty years ago. It was never. It was yesterday and I cannot see what she says or how she says it, to know if it was meant or just words spilled onto temporary carpet. I cannot know because she did not know, and our act was just a part of a grander outcome, both of us have forgotten and remembered many times since.

I love her in a way that slices through the fat and gets to the bone. I love her in a way I cannot articulate meaningfully but she knows and that’s the worst part, she knows. Maybe ever since I have found my father’s bicycle and learned to follow his trail, looking for her, looking for myself, seeking the way out of the high rise and the pinching boys and the ugliness that turns away when they see what is happening because maybe they are glad.

It is a day later, a year later, a decade past. We sit on roof tops in the weak sun and eat boiled sweets. Ants pick at our toes, dandelion’s die and float in their seed form to be wished upon and we leave them alone, already knowing, wishes are foibles.

You say it won’t hurt but it does and I knew it before it happened but I let it happen because of the ache inside that needed anything, even if it was pain.

The roof top is strewn with the debris of childhood, and my mother’s brush no longer smells of her, it goes through my hair like it was only my straight, boring hair it had to brush its entire life, as if she never existed and we did not sit on the bed together, the curtains closed nearly completely, only a hint of darkness spilling through.

If I had remembered I would have told her then, do not leave me when the time comes in twenty years, do not say goodbye a second, a forth, a nineteenth time. No matter what you think I have done, how disappointed you are in me, what disgust you hold in your heart. Instead remember this, the moment we sat quietly and I put my hand in yours and said it was okay and you cried and I cried from then until forever, without using my eyes or my ears or my mouth.

My father is cycling away from me, he is squinting ahead as if he sees something worth seeing, and I am turning, watching my mother close the door, asking that it be left open just a crack, to let the light in, hearing her steps in the corridor, not quite believing she will never come back. Because children always believe in magic. And Ghosts. And Monsters. And boys with marbles in their cheeks and demons in their eyes.

When I woke next to you and you asked me if I had a bad dream, I watched you as you sank back down into sleep and your hair fell across the pillow, the tangle and darkness of it against white linen. You could have been her, I could have been him, we could have never had a child, I ask you not to, please, do not, I don’t need to be born.

That’s why I was late, and why you struggled for 40 something hours in labor, they should have cut you, small as you were, small like me, but they didn’t, maybe it was cruelty, we have seen a lot of that in our life haven’t we and it wouldn’t surprise either one of us, or maybe it was the belief that women were strong enough no matter what, and we know that to be true also, even as we think it’s a damn shame sometimes.

You were strong enough and I was strong enough – to survive or endure but never really thrive – maybe you did – perhaps you were the only one who could – I had my eyes set on a future that never came, and a bicycle turning the corner, and my grandmother waving me from the street as I climbed the stairs to my class, and just as she turned to go, I ran back and I came outside and called her name and she said; Why aren’t you going to your classroom? And I wanted to say; Why would I go into a classroom? I’m not going to learn anything there? I have learned more here sitting on this bed, watching my mother leave, hearing her say things she did not say, wishing I were as powerful as the God of the wardrobe and not being able to eat my marzipan frog she brought me last. Because she gave it to me and I could not consume it and for it to be gone.

And you would have understood because you had your emotions close to your skin as I have, which makes you easily despised and sometimes admired. Because you were a coward as I have been, letting her be crushed by your absence and thinking it nothing at all, when you set sail again and again leaving her with a handkerchiefand a loneliness the size of Africa. I could not fill that loneliness although good God I tried many, many times, but when you break someone, you can put them back together, it does not mean they can hold anything you then pour into them.

She was the most beautiful woman I ever saw, and that from a child who didn’t yet know how to lie. I compare my lovers to her now. Wonder if they could beat her at chess and laugh because I know they could not. Think on how she managed to stay strong even in the harshest currents, when I cannot always stand without leaning. I look nothing like her, there is only sometimes in the cast of light, a glint of her in my eyes, looking back and when I see it, I ask her, why didn’t you spit me out before I was whole, so that you never had to be disappointed and I never had to lose you, then and now and never.

My grandmother taught me to swim in a basement, I dreamed the river would break its banks and my little home would be drowned. I dreamed my father was on the bottom bunk and I on the top and every time the water receded he was lifeless and I could do nothing, except scream impotently underwater for him to live. My grandmother died before I was old enough to let her know the truth, that I was not her grandchild but a water sprite dredged up from the river mud and set to swimming in dreams not of my own. That I had no parents but the marzipan figurines of night terrors and mares and I peed in my bed until I was too old to tell and old enough to lie.

Learning to swim was the only thing I learned fast and well, everything else came slow and difficult, just like trying to love someone who doesn’t love you, or expressing things too painful for words. I could sit with my parents and paint my wardrobe but I could never, ever, close the chink of light coming in from the slightly opened curtains, spilling on the floor where she walked across, soundlessly, growing dim and incomplete like the china dolls set back on a distant shelf somewhere.

Now I wear heavy glasses and even that is not enough, I cannot drive at night, I see things that are not there, and do not see what is. I think that is quite ironic really all things considered. My stomach hurts to think of how easily the brush goes through my hair, and how girls with curly hair never needed hairbrushes, so how hers became mine, seems like it always was, and the bottles she left behind were empty when she was here, when she was gone, when she never was.

If one day I am asked, I will say, I tried my best, I learned to swim well and I could pick up one of those weighted bricks from the bottom of the azure swimming pool but nobody came to see me swim so I did not compete well and soon I gave it up altogether. I will say I remember my grandmother running after a man who had broken in to watch us swim and bellowing at the top of her voice she scared him off, all 5’1 of her. I think my mother would laugh at that story, she has a wonderful laugh, it lights up her face and makes everyone else in the room join in.

We will not invite the shadows, we will not ask the ghouls or the disappointments to attend. We will stay the two of us, and wait it out. The past, the present and the future. We will talk on other things and not linger on those that prick and make us bleed. We will circumvent the pain like a sleeping lion and I will make her smile at my stories, the way I did once, once some time, some where. I have forgotten exactly when. The two of us, so alike and so different, sisters, strangers, with love the size of a river, with regret as deep as a drowning. Things never said on the tip of my tongue, burning with love, as we are quiet on the edge of the bed, with my mother about to leave and yet, still there, and me, always leaning, leaning towards her. Wanting to reach out. And tell her to stay.