Because she asked I help Layla
into the pink princess dress Grandma
sent her for Halloween last year. And
because she asked I let Layla help me
with the 39 mother of pearl buttons
from the nape of my neck to the small
of my back to get me enclosed in our
mother's time-yellowed wedding dress
that we found while cleaning the closet.
And because it rained the entire night
before, even if the morning sky is blue
now, the morning ground is a viscous
auburn and I insist we wear our rain boots
if she wants to take these gowns outside,
the mud sucking, slurping a song, each
of our steps keeping time all the way from
the cottage down to the creek, the swish
of aged lace and polyester lining, a nylon
brush against the snare as I sway through
cattails and ribbon grass, the sister ten
years my younger, the sister with a mind
stuttering on second-grade spelling words
while walking through halls of a rural
secondary school, this sister speaks songs
of the chickadee and sings questions to the
answers the momentary loss of oxygen
to her brain deceives her into believing
she doesn't know. She claps fairytales
and whistles fables, asks me if I am
a hare or a tortoise, laughing because
she thinks I think I am just a human.
And I can scream into my pillow and
curse my father nightly for swallowing a
two-month stockpile of 100 mg capsules
of amitriptyline with his nightly Pepsi on
the feast day of St Rita of Cascia, then took
us, to show us, how a 1987 BMW 5-series
swims in Cullaby Lake with a family of five
inside, but he taught her something like truth
in patience and goodness so that while I insist
on ramming my forehead into the inside
of the aquarium glass, perseverate on the night
I became a new mother at 18, a new mother
of a 3'10", 49 pound reborn child, Layla delights
in the grasshoppers and ants inside her skull,
tugging at my hand even though she now
stands nearly above my shoulder, impossible
to miss with a smile I'm daily terrified someone,
sometime will mine for all the purity it is worth,
tugging at my hand to tell me somehow, this, us
in our mud-hemmed dresses at the water's edge,
a field spotted with huckleberry bushes and what
Sitka spruce survived the Tillamook Burn between
us and everything else, it must be a fable.
Sing me a story.
It must be a fable.
Sing, sister, sing.
This must be a fable.
This must be a fucking fable.
Two sisters sit on one spruce stump near
a stream's edge, mud and grass and leaves
dying and redecorating their gowns of
once-white German lace, still-iridescent
pink taffeta trimmed with gold-braided
cord, one's mind stalled under the accelerator
forever floored at the bottom of Cullaby Lake
by a drowned corpse's bones, the other's voice
reverberating in the valley between driver
and passenger-side doors, calling, pleading
for forgiveness to the mother, father, brother,
left behind, left for decay in their seatbelts.