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.



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