Back to Issue Forty-Three

When My Sister Places a Jellyfish on My Head


& yells, Make a wish! I think of my parents’ waterbed, un-
making love—how I’ve never caught you, Mom & Dad,

down the hall, a few froggy doors from mine, baking
bread in each other’s burning church, unafraid to click

cicadas between tombstones of teeth & let your daughters
hear you. Hooves on headboard? Impossible. Snow angels

in sock drawer? Possible. I do not blame you for your quiet,
your modest tsunami knees, water running through a gun

handed down to me. As you tucked your groins into a little girl
on my father’s birthday, did you resurrect the neighbors to lust me,

to love me in the middle of your parents’ dying phone call?
I picture the night you finally howled communion over covers,

breaking bones like bangles, bouquets of climaxed toes peeling back
my winking green. Your lupine & lilac bedspread a chariot blown

off sown tracks. Mattress of healing, like El Santuario de Chimayo,
discarded canes & braces kissing white carpet, dirt-packed wheelchairs hanging

on hooks like Peter Pan’s shadow. You named me Gift of God worthy of love.
Am I. In love? Hatable? You scooped hospital scent into each other’s vials

to take home, after surviving the 1997 Michigan ice storm, after suctioning
my head when born, after I was too big to be alive, to be unwound,

to wound. If I die before you, I’ll know you heard me above
(at least once) in the guest bedroom with my ex, poem legs spread

like god’s blood on his lover’s clotted sheet. When you spoon
off the morning-after bathroom mirror & say, We will never speak of this again…

I nod but don’t believe you. My teacher asks me what I want to be
when I grow up. I draw a jellyfish that blushes each shush, her mouth mid-sting.


Amanda Dettmann is a queer poet, performer, and educator who is the author of Untranslatable Honeyed Bruises. She earned her MFA from New York University and has received support from the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by The Emerson Review, and she was one of two finalists for the Action, Spectacle contest judged by Mary Jo Bang. Dettmann’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Amistad, South Florida Poetry Journal, The Oakland Review, and The National Poetry Quarterly, among others.

Next (Urvashi Bahuguna) >

< Previous (Marianne Chan)