First Dream of the Dead
The night is sharp and every evening bee releases its sting and buzz. In the kitchen, my sister with her silicone curls cups the oven smoke between her hands. Blows it over the table where she used to braid my bone-colored hair. Asks, Why are you so haunted by the dead but never by me?
From the living room, my father’s howl sucks me in like a lung. I’ve lost Grampa’s medal, he sobs. I search for the medal. Find it looped over Dad’s left ear. I try to pin the medal to his pyjama shirt but it drops to the floor as if I weren’t there.
I visit my grandmother’s bedroom. She sits up straight. Wakes the tombstones in her hair to ask, Am I wasting the night? I nod and lead her back in time to soldiers kissing women beneath a prowling moon. With her eyebrow pencil, Granny draws a seam up the back of her legs. Tangos with a statue through lavender fields, snapping off yellow rose heads with her cane. This is heaven, she giggles. Where are you? Granny arabesques away without waving goodbye, leaving footprints the shape of angels.
Long ago, a whistling boy with hair made of light asked me to dance. Now he lies still and pale in our bed, his skin slack, his spine curved away like treason. His funeral suit is crumpled on the floor. While I look down on him, he rolls into my indent to hug my pillow, tears on his cheeks. Whispers, I miss you.
grew up in South Africa and England, and now lives in Canada. Her stories and poems are are published in Gone Lawn, The Cincinnati Review, New Ohio Review, Crab Creek Review, Pithead Chapel, Milk Candy Review
, among others. She’s on Twitter at >@LotusTongue
and on BlueSky at @lisaalletson.bsky.social
. You can find more of her published work at www.lisaalletson.com