Sisters with a Gone Mother
1. Have learned to listen — for breath over machinery, the slow beep of a still-beating heart — and so, after, hear every note of birdsong, the shimmer of a blue tit, the bass of a wood pigeon, the robins’ twiddle-dee; and, at night, the crickets chirping and, beyond that, the streetlights humming and, beyond that, their eardrums buzzing, straining still for sweeter sounds: brushstroke ballet flats against metal, the turn of a lock, the give of the door, a warbling honeys, I’m home.
2. Stew and simmer, cheeks flush, fingers swollen, ears giving off steam, skin sunburnt even in winter when a hot tongue can make a quick connection, when the cold concrete won’t melt, will crack, snap, beneath their hot-heeled feet.
3. Cool off under seal-snout sprinklers, outdoor shower heads, uncorked fire hydrants; splash in clawfoot bathtubs, neon paddling pools, mud puddles (at least in a pinch); resist the urge to poke holes in rust-red water towers, swim in snake-infested waters, jump into the rhinos’ pen; walk, instead, with crossed fingers and parched lips, praying for rain.
4. Pull apart, like taffy, thinned in the middle, thick at the head, heavy on their ankles, but light on their toes as they teeter-totter away from each other, their reflections, their faces — their mother's — buried in pillows, beneath bed sheets, under thick-brimmed bucket hats blocking out the sun.
5. See signs all the time, morse-coded firefly flickers, meadow hawks in fours, freesia in the weeds; good ghosts, always the good ghosts, only the good ghosts showing up at séances, the smiling sun under a planchette’s eye, clocks stopped at 11:11, the telltale scent of linseed oil, a here-kitty-kitty-kitty at the crosswalk, turned tail, leading them un-astray.
6. Sticky-tack back together, foot to lap, head to shoulder, elbow to elbow, fingers to palm, red-rovered and steady, ready to yowl at the moon, even when it isn’t blue, even when it isn’t full, even when it’s just a sliver, especially when it’s just a sliver, a chink in the night’s armor they can slip a sharpened nail in and use to wrench the sky open wide.
Jeanine Skowronski (she/her/hers) is a writer based in N.J. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in X-R-A-Y Lit, Lost Balloon, MoonPark Review, Five on the Fifth, (mac)ro(mic), Complete Sentence, Crow & Cross Keys, Tiny Molecules and more.