The air tasted like we had been screaming
for hours; we were drowning everything, tendrils
of hair spilling into the lake, our mouths clogged
with pond scum and microscopic bacteria and the truth,
a cold, bitter after-taste haunting our throats. Our black dresses
were soaked, clinging to our bodies like swim suits,
and we looked like seaweed or eels or other washed-out things.
In December you said ‘I was Cleopatra in a past life’
and I couldn’t say no; this was the month Luke was sick,
hospital sick, and every night, through my bedroom wall,
I heard you pray, not to God, but to Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal
so his wife’s ghost would have somewhere to rest.
You said ‘I was a siren in a past life’and I couldn’t say no;
you didn’t swim, you streamed through the water,
a streak of color and skin and light,
and instead of drowning sailors, you drowned yourself.
Lips dry, hair tinted green from chlorine,
I watched as you kissed Coach Rogers in the locker room,
your towel and his clipboard wet on the ground. He had turned 33
the week before and you told me later that he tasted like cigarettes,
but not in a romantic way. You let him roam his fingers on your body and he said good-bye twice when he left, to make a point.
This was the month Luke’s mother took him
to the cancer center in South Carolina, where they left before
you could say good-bye. This was the month a letter showed up
at the house addressed to you every day, each enclosed with a blank paper
with the word sorry written in the middle.
Now, we lay at the edge of the lake, and pretend we can see
those letters slowly unravel, the ink bleeding into the water,
the fibers of the paper disintegrating into nothing,
like his apologies were nothing, like you both were nothing.
You think you and Luke were tragic,
and I think you and Luke were human,
and in this murky water it became clear
that we were nothing more than grief-torn sisters
clinging to each like beached starfish.
We lay at the edge of the lake,
and pretend we could see those letters sink.