Remembering Jill Right

Despertar 1
By Olivia Somes

She held
a butter knife to the wall,
cradled in the corner
of the basement,
half-naked, hair
crackled off sheen,
fencing the hole
our father caused
with a bowling ball.
Her eyes were
hungry eyes—half
broken suns screaming
at coyotes.
The war is in the light
she shouted
as my brother
flicked the light switch.
I used him as a shield
like Jill would
into an alien being
with intestines
for tentacles.
She sunk further
into the corner
at the sight of us
like she was part
of a mural
adding animated
carcasses, dead roses
to watery stone.

She went away a little
while after that. A few
weeks she was back
campaigning for prom queen,
eating pot roast
at the dinner table.
Our father’s wrist
watch beeped,
my mother pulled
a blue pill
from the cabinet.
We all watched Jill
consume it, stick out
her tongue like a prize
mule at a carnival.
The three of them
smiled at each other,
their faces beamed
of some epiphany,
of some secret trunk
in the basement
new heirlooms,
replacing the past.

Today, at Sunday
dinner, it’s Jill’s
wrist watch that
beeps, our brother’s
off at a war that
happens in both
the light and dark,
and I am taller
than everyone.
My mother
believes Jill was molested
by some dark figure
she buried so deep
her mind lost its wheels:
the meter reader always

My father chalks it up
to chemicals in the air,
in the water.
They talk about that day
like it was a Halloween
prank gone wrong,
a carved pumpkin
thrown through a window,
a childish phase
like eating mud,
saying no to every question,
Jill’s too avant-garde
for her own good.

I remember clearly, remember
the weeks before the basement,
remember her needling
into the flesh of her hand
with her thumbnail,
the staring through
an empty plate,
her knees trembling
against tablecloth.
She picked me up
from school, told me
all the whales
died, they will
resurrect in
our bathtubs
bury us
with ice.

Her face
back in focus
like a camera,
her eyes recovered
from a spiraling flash.
She laughed,
pretended it was a joke,
said she take me to a movie.
In the darkness of the
theater, she gaped
off to the side,
squeezing my hand
a hundred times
to purge
to verify
were fine
were fine.

She knows
I remember it
It is my door she
wanders to, when
the doses of colored
pills can’t filter away
the black blooded
She hides herself
in my folds
like my arms
are the corner
in a basement
and we rock in the dark,
shake the madness away.
I accept her words,
believe what’s in the light.
When she tries to run from me
I hold her tighter (siblings
wielded like prisons bars
locking in the the relentless
swell of a starving shank).
We stay like that until
the Walls rest still,
the Curtains retract their jaws,
until she feels
she’s made of meat again.
Until the whole scene
becomes our little joke again


  1. An explosion of constant booming vivid imagery. I can reread this over and over. “Her eyes were hungry eyes – half broken suns screaming at coyotes” was my favorite line. Nice work!

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