One night at twenty-one, in a cramped

newlywed apartment, Florida heat slowly

draining from the blistered asphalt outside,

I dreamed of my sister. She was almost

seventeen, then. I missed our life

in my parents’ house, and our younger sister,

doll-small, who at four was riding always

our hips and shoulders. I missed too

the suffocation of family I’d traded

for the mystery of marriage, sleep

with a man replacing my usual sleep:

three sisters piled in together, though we

each had a bed of our own, elbows and knees

flung everywhere. We were cranky and sore

in the mornings, but more miserable apart.

In my dream my sister stood in our doorway,


her sun-streaked hair lank as seaweed,

her brown eyes flattened, sunk

in a phantasm of death, skin grayed and visible

only through gaps in torn, dull-black cloth.

She never said what she had become,

only warned me not to follow her, a message

she relayed with distaste, even indifference,

and that I received with a barren horror.

What haunted me most when I awoke

in the humid morning heat, my back unjabbed

by my new husband’s knee, was not whether

I dreamed my sister dead, or even damned—

most ghastly was that our dream-selves had not

loved one another. How strange that now,

of all hellish things that could have happened,

this end of love is the one that did.







Photo by Becky Wetherington