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Four poems by A.T. Grant

Dead Sister We Are a Popped Waterballoon

The water held in the shape of balloon for a moment. The body pricked with a penknife. Beaten into cloud shapes. A place to pass through.

My dead sister and I poked at my dead body with a stick until a bug crawled out.

With a rotten strawberry. I ate it. It came back as a blood spot on my elbow. As a place to reach my finger through. Moreover the mosquitoes licked the sores of my dead body which received in its life.

Good thing my dead sister’s hand splayed over my face. Shh. A spidercrack across the window. Rock makes spider. Paper kills spider with my hand swinging paper. Scissors kills spider with my hand swinging paper and paper knocking scissors to the floor crushing spider inadvertently.

The spider I would have eaten in my sleep. The paper I would have draped over my dead face. Dead sister what is my kiss on your cheek. A strawberry. A bug.

The scissors I would have carved out of one piece of wood while I sat in the boat on a warm afternoon after the kiss on the back of my neck had dried.

Use the scissors to cut off a finger.

A flying fish. Bird scratching out the fish’s eye. And the fish flies into an ear. Left on the bank.

Let’s put the ear in a folding chair. Let’s put the chair on a stage with a black door and a red door and let’s topple the chair. Then turn on a floodlamp. All electric lines tide back to the river. To the ocean which is never enough. Which is always blurred by waves. The lamp burns out.

My dead sister shotputs an orange. The orange bursts a bird. Dead sister pretend we have to fall down when we see a bird flying.

And she falls through a hole in the floor of the boat.

Dead sister I won’t believe in you if you won’t believe in me. And then we pretend you’re lying on the riverbank. Mosquito holes all over your body. And I come running up. And we put words in each other’s mouths. Then you say. We were so close to finding the strawberry. Now the mosquitoes have it. You must stop them.

And then you say. Dead sister I’m not going on without you.

And you say. It’s too late. And you start to let your voice drift. And you mumble something I can’t hear.

And then we pretend it’s years later and the mosquitoes escaped. And I never got over it and I’m a boat builder on the other bank. And I’ve got a real bad drinking problem and you come back and I’m gonna go. Dead sister.

Gasp the words in. Like you’re swallowing them.

Then I’ll black out.

And when you wake up I’m still there. But I don’t say anything I point and you understand.

Ok. Let’s go.

As a bird bashes its body into a window over and over.

They don’t let me ride a horse or disappear you say. And when lightning falls call it campfire. And make your hand a marshmallow on a straightened clothes hanger and hold it over the fire. When it catches fire I wave it in the night. As a smoke signal. A flare. And I hear ghostnotes shine in the scrape of the tree limbs.

If a tree falls it is caught by other trees. Or it is broken over a rock. Or it is pulped into paper. Or it is whittled into a pair of wooden scissors. Or a boat.

Have some water. Doesn’t the river taste like someone else’s spit. As if I could touch the own hand of my death. Paddle in the water not moving. Water in the river not pulling. River down the vein of the valley.

I’m hunting for me now and I must go quietly. Try and shush me. In a boat made for mouthing. Made of nothing. On nothing. Hung there. Stay empty sky.




A gash in the side of the boat. In the side of my dead sister. My hand a hook. It drifts through her lip. The holes in her bleed and bleed and my hand is a strawberry fist.

My strawberry fist squeezes her blood till it clots.

And a mosquito flies from my dead sister’s mouth. It bites her blood clots. Then it licks her blood from my fingers. Until they are clean.

I yell for my dead sister but when I do. The mosquito bites my arm. It whistles and more mosquitoes stream from my dead sister’s mouth.

And they swarm my arm. They are flags lining my bloodlines. My dead sister watches them. She watches them stab so many holes in me. Watches them fly through the holes. In my arms. In my eyes. In my belly. Until my dead sister can see through. The holes punched through my dead brother body.

She wiggles her finger through the hole in my lip. She says gotcha. And she giggles.

Dead sister I scream. Help. Help. Help me. Dead sister.

She snaps her fingers and the mosquitoes freeze. Their needles frozen in my arm. My bloodcicles in their straws.

Thank you dead sister I say. Let me get those for you she says. And she presses the mosquitoes into me like pushpins.

Kills the mosquitoes into me. I wince each time she kills them. Dead sister I shout. That hurts.

Oops I’m sorry my dead sister says. Strawberry juice leaks from her eyes. She helps me wash my skinsuit in the river. Strawberry juice leaks from both of our eyes.



Strawberry Gash

The river in my dead sister’s mouth. The air a thick churned sludge. The light heavy. It bends the limbs of the trees. Folds them till they crack. And when they crack they stick splintered through my dead sister’s teeth.

She feels the splinters with her tongue. Her teeth spit shined. She picks at the splinters with my knife. When she can’t get the splinters loose she shreds her teeth. They ash down over the boat. My face covered with toothshreds.

I breathe in the toothshreds and sneeze and feel a seam in my skin suit rip open. A gash in the side of my skin suit. It bleeds. A strawberry. A bug. Black sludge. A mouth puking.

And the gash in my skin suit is a gash in the side of the boat. My dead sister is a gash. A gash opening in the middle of the river. My dead sister and I the leak from the gash.



A Gaping Hole in My Dead Sister’s Chest. Splits Open and a Little Juice Comes Out.

I stick my hand into her goop. Reach up my dead sister’s throat like she’s a sock puppet. When I move my fingers her mouth opens.

And her tongue shoots out. It looks like a squiggling Z. A mosquito lands on it like a blood rope.

Or line.

I make a buzzing noise and it travels up my arm and my dead sister hums.

I plug my fingers into my dead sister’s eye sockets and my eyes glow behind their lids. Soon my whole skin is see-thru. Nothing but dead stuff underneath.

My sister wears her dead on the outside.

I move my dead sister’s mouth. I make it say. Ok now it is your turn dead brother. And I put her hand in my chest.



A.T. Grant lives in Minneapolis. He has a band called New South Bear. You can hear them here: http://cllct.com/art/newsouthbear. He wants to play music or read poems in your house (or garage or at your river bank). His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Sixth Finch, The Scrambler, and Forklift, OH.