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The Girls Are Sleeping

       in memory of Adeliza Pomeroy

I feel a jerk beneath my chest
as if a big finger were hooked
on my bottommost rib, and in that moment
I'm standing at the sink, scouring pans.
I'm scrubbing like I did
before Em coughed her last. Emily stood
to my left, against the sideboard
and dried the dishes. I'm scrubbing
in circles like Mamma said, and I can breathe
all the way to the gutter of my lungs. I can breathe in
and feel it sweet and blue in every corner,
down to the little toes and the lobes of my ears.
I turn to the left
and Em has got a dishrag and stands
so tall that I know I'm ten again,
and my sister's seventeen. Em was seventeen
the day her eyes rolled in her head.
But here she is, flicking her rag
at my backside, eyes forward
and alight. "Liza,"
she says, "hurry with that pan
or we'll be late for the sing at Jed's."
And the kitchen door is open
and I see the bleeding sun
of high summer. I see the meadow flaring out
and coming up the steps to find us.

Antonina Palisano

The Massachusetts Review

Summer 2014

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