Because I have to humor them to get to you.
Because of the way you rifle and pilfer
and leave the contents of my purse an eruption on the living room floor.

Because I have a reoccurring dream
that you’re drowning in a neighbor’s swimming pool.
Because I almost drowned in Aunt Pat’s
pool when I was eleven.
Because I’ve had that dream once a week
since I was six years old.
Because you’d think it wouldn’t be scary anymore.

Because I remember Mom saying “my perfect family
is ruined” and crying over it.
Because she cried for having said it.
Because of your frightening, purple face,
bulbous eyes, crooked fingers.
Because she told me to be disgusted with myself
in junior high, when you “emme hand,
May Tatie” in the mall, and I wouldn’t take it.

Because you wander into traffic.
Because you still ask about Bailey, three years after
she died a step ahead of you.
Because I wish I could just be furious.

Because sixteen years of “hold yous” and lip sauce and
my arms are tired.
Because I might be an ogre.
Because when they go, you’ll be
passed around to four weary nurses.
Because we’ll be watching you
like a newborn on life support.

Because I dreamed I sang a lullaby at your funeral.
Because I know I’ll sing a lullaby at your wake.

Because I’m five and a half years older than you.
Because she needs to die first, then he needs to die,
before you can die.
Because you’ve been dying since the day you were born.





That day you picked me up from the airport
and refused to call Tammy before the wedding,
I shaved my legs in the bathroom of Sears-Roebuck,
cut myself half a dozen times, and played rooster
with Anna in the backseat until you turned around
and snapped at me, getting ready for
God’s house without make-up on.

I was the red cotton girl at a table of little black dresses.
Standing, your fingertips pressed so-help-me-God on the linen,
back turned, you conspired with the table of honor,
turned pulpit, tea-lit, turned as if
is this god-fearing enough, woman?