Catherine Barnett

The Disbelieving

We all saw how beautiful she looked
those first six months when she walked a thousand miles—
over the University Bridge
and under it
and into and out of the Arboretum
and up the hill to the sundial we circled every day
while the days got longer
and my sister more beautiful,
her red hair turning gray, a slow
turning, as if some force were braiding out the red,
and we looked at her
through veils—
veil of grey hair,
veil of hands over face,
veil of disbelief we all shared then.
The night after we picked up the ashes
she drew the brass urn into bed with her
and in the morning pulled back the blankets—
I’ve fallen asleep next to her
and I’ve awakened next to her
and every morning is every time
the mother lifting the sheet to see her child
sleeping and dreaming only the bed is empty
and the mother strips the blankets
and strips the sheets
down to the mattress made of stone.

Catherine Barnett
The Disbelieving is from Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced (Alice James Books, 2004).