Tennessee Hill

Birch Tree Summer

The best trip my mother took was when she left   for good
and brought almost nothing.

It’s my last night on Pearl Street.

Outside, the serenaded faces of woodpeckers
make pine trees their own.  Now, I move home.

Home.      My best decade

was born of a split embryo. Twin brother.
He’s in a feed store baling hay.

                      If I was a damselfly, he was a grub.

When I said, Hide, he said, No,

and we laughed, blowing our cover      for the next ten years.

Our mother dreams prophecies.

                  Once: my brother bracing his own throat.

Once: my apparition, insisting, I’m fine. I’ll be fine, Mom.

                                                                      Don’t worry.

As brother bales, mosquitos pirouette

                        from freckle to freckle.

On Pearl Street, I say my middle name until
it sounds false

& evening becomes entirely Elizabeth.

                         We are Mother’s walled garden.

She describes our twinship in floral notes: Magnolia.
Birch tree summer.

She left her first husband in California.

I believe she never thinks about him but some years
she points out his birthday. According to her

my brother will kill himself.     And I will be fine.

Home       is where nobody knows

how to braid my hair.     On Pearl Street, Amber lives
two apartments over.     She can fishtail and French.

She explained braiding as everything to the middle.

Somewhere in childhood, we stopped learning each other.

If he dies, I die, too.      If he dies, my mother’s twenties
were wasted. If he dies, mosquitoes

will have nowhere but me to land.

I will have to bale the hay and I
will be the one to laugh and life will have left me

                                                                             a long time ago.