On the night of her 48th birthday,
my father asks me to pray for
his youngest sister. I watch
how he quivers like her cake’s last
candle, moments before
I blow him out. I want to kiss
his uneven eyelids with the same
certainty I imagine his faint hands
cupped her ten-year-old face
after her accident, healing it
into an heirloom for me to wear
as my own. Saying her name, my father
enunciates each letter, plucking
off every ticking petal.
I press my ear to his chest,
mistaking his heartbeat for the sound
of his sister’s fists thudding against
the inside of his hourglass.
Her expired laughter strewn around us
in bits of singed confetti,
a few pieces glinting
within my father’s tufts of hair.
I know her as the girl
I get to be, her absence that can’t help
but adore me into another
attempt. He gathers as much of me
as he can into his inevitable arms
the day I turn eleven,
the way a fountain holds
every penny’s wish hostage.
My father accidentally calls me his
sister’s name as he kisses my temple,
a smudge of sand gathering
where he removes his lips.
His thumb circles
my palm a ferris wheel,
in which I’m seated in a cart of my own.
I peer ahead, spotting
my father’s sister in her red cart.
Her eyes curve into uneven parentheses
as she grins at me.
A breeze rattles her blue sundress,
its printed paper airplanes flickering
mid-flight. She’s already so near
the top, her waving hand
vanishing over the bend.
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