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Sleeping With My Sisters

ISSUE:  Autumn 1994

Nights we all piled into the same double bed.
Five girls, a huddled mass of elbows and rear ends.
Each one massaging, scratching, begging
another to rub her back.
The little two got crammed in between
our arm pits, honeysuckle on the vine.
All those girls and I was the biggest,
the one that took everything first,
even stepped on a rusty nail
saving my sisters the shot, the infection.


Mary fought me—
a sister with more hip and bigger breasts.
She was choppy: red cut curls, round stormy eyes.
Her nails bitten, not any moon showing.
Contrary, a curl, so proud of being so very good
and so very bad.
Sister—dark and wild.
Her hips are wide and spread easily
but tight like a wet wish bone
she opens to let men in.
They only get one wish
which they can’t tell.

She was like humid weather,
something I learned to endure.
Her temper sat in a cold bucket
turning her white skin red.
When her lower lip shoved out
the others gave her anything she wanted
to keep her calm,
but not from me. Not from me.


Fighting was a kind of loving in our family.
That Sunday all us girls were crammed in the back seat
I got the window
She pinched my thigh.
After church, I took the bottom sheet off her bed.
She ripped the bedding off mine
leaving me a bare mattress and a bed to make.
I threw her sheets and blankets down the stairs.
A rage of hot wind flew at me.
I turned, raised my right hand.
Stop it Mary, please stop.
My fist landed in the middle of her back. Hard.
Winded she slumped. Sobbed.
Her fingertips scratched the wooden floors.


It is nightlife now. He rises above me
looking like a man on a cross,
his hands supporting himself over my body.
His right leg tucked behind his left,
he is pushing himself into me
searching for a sweet spot.
I press my legs into the small of his back.
Just as I climb up toward his breath
I miss sleeping with those sisters—

I miss the honeysuckle I used to pick and suck
those sweet insides—sweet yellow pollen fills my lungs
and they are in my skin, rubbing my back,
tangled in the sheets. Please, little sister
please rub my back just a little longer.


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