sporklet 14

Rachel Reeher

Tea Party

Sister starts bathing in tea bags, boxes of Irish breakfast ordered in bulk, pitched overboard into running water. Hundreds of tea bags a night, boxes delivered to the doorstep stacked seventeen high, mailmen squinting beneath their brim like what kind of freaky thing are you at in there? Bags and bags. The bathwater is black. Like the Amazon she whispers through a cupped hand, which checks out—some parts of the river bloom black like ink. Her bathtimes stretch and soon she even sleeps there. Her body raisins. The skin thins and blues. Her vein systems surface. She looks like a map. This is my best option, she puffs one night. Brother invests in tea stock. Sister’s habit kicks the market straight up. Get a look at that bell curve Brother winks. He starts giving tours. Water so dark you can’t see much below the collarbone, so—Not indecent Brother grins. Still, I float a scarf on the surface when tourists traipse through. I imagine I’m upholding a part of some Sisters Code. A middle finger to the man. I am noble. I lean into my heroism. In the evenings I sit on the tub’s edge reading fairy tales or Vogue articles aloud while she soaks. Things are coming along she sings, but from this angle it’s plain that the lobes of her ears are sagging. She lifts a hand to scratch and the tips of her fingers droop like balloons. She is waterlogged, so I say to her You are waterlogged and she answers The problem is we’re always so dry and I take this to mean I know what I’m doing. The tea bags are clogging the drain. Some slip through and cement in the pipe curve. The water runs slower and slower. Sister is rippled and tea-stained, more mealworm than girl. She looks weak, so I tell her You look weak and she snuffs in my direction which I take to mean It’s all part of the plan. I sleep in the bathroom. She talks more and more. All night she whispers in my ear—The stars are not a map they are an alphabet. This is a mathematical disease and what I’m saying is the numbers don’t line up. I listen and listen. I scoop sopping tea bags from the bath and dump new boxes. Every peach is a parallel, she tells me as I clip the nails on her bloated toes. I woke this morning to a pigeon in a pink suit. The pin of its head opened like a cap she breathes. I start scratching down her mumbles in case the answer to the universe is tucked inside. Her eyes have sunk deeper into her skull. She looks like a naked mummy, so I say You look like a naked mummy and ask What’s with this tea? She looks at me with her cloudy eyes and hums, Divide the equation so the seam splits and sand pours from the fat lips of gravity which I take to mean I’m telling you. We’re too dry.

Rachel Reeher is currently an MFA candidate at Arizona State University and the poetry editor of Hayden’s Ferry Review.