Back to Issue Thirty-One

Winter Sister


The day your brother dies I undress
bury the clothes I’m wearing

in the trash. A long-sleeve striped shirt
and a pair of jeans.

It’s October. I don’t know how you feel,
what you throw out.

The lake falls back into itself
like a first draft.


You start sleeping on the floor.
When I spend the night

I join you, the two of us
cocooned in comforters. All night I listen

for your breath from beneath
the blue-grey chrysalis.


At home, my mom starts reading to me
in the evening again. She has

a clear voice, like water.
I’m getting too old for it,

but each night she leaves
a space for me in bed beside her.


Time behaves strangely, moving forward
and away. Magnolias bloom

like ink-blots in the yard.
Drought turns the weeping willow

yellow in the wind.


Somewhere what you love is still alive
turning cartwheels in a gentle snow

is the kind of lie I write years later,
wishing I could make it true for you.


Winter sister. Seventeen years
of sleeping on floors.

We live so far apart but I still wake
searching for your shape in the dark.

You still call me in your quiet voice,
waiting and waiting

for what won’t come home.





October 31st, Lutzschena. The sky looks like snowfall but nothing comes.
In our host family there are three daughters: Johanna, Maja, and Greta.

Beyond the castle is a park, and in the park a river. We step over a basket
of apples to get to the bikes. We pedal past Auwald Station under black alder,

bird cherry, ash. We pedal past the pond, the statue of Diana. Horses scooping
the air with soft noses. I grew up in a house near a horse farm.

Rain polished the days into perfect puddles, but when I looked too closely
at my reflection, there was always something about to break.

Now night falls, translucent as water. When I blink, my eyelashes
clarify the darkness, like the rubber wipers in a car-wash.

Love isn’t lupine, those divided leaves which die in winter. It isn’t purple
or ash-pink. It’s telescope glass: you can see across to the other side.

Saxony, where the farmers make wooden figurines in winter
when the fields are frozen and the Earth gives nothing back.

Each figurine holds a wooden flower. Know that whenever a force is exerted
from outside, there is also a force being exerted from within,

which amplifies the pressure. I don’t know where the original owners
of the castle went during the war. The photos stop at 1938.

In the Jewish Museum, the photo that pains me most is the pile of eyeglasses.
When the Soviets took over, the castle went into disrepair.

Birch trees grew up out of the floor, rain made little mountain streams
down the marble staircase. In the morning: mist, steam, rain.

Rain ribboning over the brown earth. Rain slack-jawed
against the windows. Steam on the inside pane of the shower

where I write my name. Maja is the youngest. At breakfast she sits next to me
and speaks rapid-fire. When I ask her mother to translate,

she shrugs, explains: She is speaking her own language.
Later, by the tree-house, I draw shapes in water with a thin branch,

and think of the summer we didn’t speak. The warm space in bed
where your body was. I bend the stick in my hand.

Nothing ever really breaks, though force can cause a flexible object to deform.


Catherine Pond’s book, Fieldglass, was selected by Traci Brimhall for the 2019 Crab Orchard First Book Award in Poetry. Fieldglass is forthcoming with Southern Illinois University Press in 2021. Catherine is a PhD candidate in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California, and holds an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University, where she was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize in 2013. She is co-founder of the online literary magazine Two Peach (with Julia Anna Morrison). Her poem “This Rain” appeared in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2018 Anthology. She lives in Los Angeles.

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