Sister, Mother

I can taste blood
in the syllables of your name
as it rolls off my tongue.
Its sharp vowels chips teeth
and leaves tears in my gums.

Every time I see your face
in mine,
I feel a small death
rattling in my lungs.
I have to laugh
to get it out of me.

Your name was written
on the tombstones of every grave
I saw in the cemetery
I used to hide in as a child,
reading Stephen King in the grass
and wondering if the flowers
that sprouted from the dirt beds
drank dead memories up through their roots.

I would pluck daisies, forget-me-nots, and roses
from the grave soil,
imagine souls disintegrating in my hands
as I pulled out all their petals.
All those flower heads,
stripped of their petals,
looked like you.

I can’t read your name
without thinking of Sundays
spent at your house in Union Hills,
next to a strip club named after a candy store
that I thought was a candy store…
until my hormones told me that it WAS a candy store,
just not the kind they give you at the end of October.

We would read comics- Spawn and The Maxx.
I’d rest my feet on your pit bull
while you let me play Sonic The Hedgehog
on your Genesis.
You chain-smoked on the porch,
signing your name in curlicues of nicotine.
You drank a 2 liter of coke every day
and never gained an ounce.
You gave me everything-
but you never gave me that.

I can’t think of your name
without picturing:
clouds of dust
kicked up by a speeding car;
an airplane vanishing beyond the horizon;
an empty doghouse;
a Sega on a Goodwill rack;
a piece of mail
with no return address.

Your name gives me
coughing fits
from secondhand nostalgia.
Your name clings to the leather
of my car seats
and cuts lines into my face.
Your name is a dead currency
that can’t buy me anything.
Your name gave me
nine months,
plus some change.
Perhaps it’s greedy of me
to ask for more.

Wherever you are,
I wonder what you taste
when you say my name.
I hope it’s sweet.
That’s all I can hope for you
anymore.

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