Colleen Michaels

Grand Mal, Pall Mall, Pell Mell
by Colleen Michaels

At six, a baby sister is Cabbage Patch,
a flesh doll to dress in ridiculous hats.
I took her to kindergarten for show and tell Friday.
She was okay, but not as good as the Wizard of Oz
snap front shirt I brought in the week before.

The morning of the Grand Mal, the small
doll body of my sister stops breathing.
I am at home hoarding our grandmother while she turns blue.
Our parents at a pancake breakfast are pulled aside by the priest.
I am seized by questions. Could I go to the hospital?
How about the small gift shop? Can I get a cafeteria-grilled muffin?
Once I have learned the word Phenobarbital, can clap
out the syllables, I get greedy for a spelling bee.

That week my mom smoked Pall Malls on the apartment porch.
Her hands shaky, she’d gulped in enough air for everyone.
I watched her shoulders go up and down in her leather car coat
looking like she was talking to someone, trying to convince
or ask for a little more time to make the rent.

My sister, now a skier, now a skydiver.
That morning her first trick death.
I remember her seizure story pell mell,
confuse the ice bed her frail fish bones
were thrown upon with my grandmother’s
slip on the slick steps tossing her to paramedics.
This bright white becomes the shock of age
suddenly there in my young father’s black hair.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 17, Issue 2.

Colleen MichaelsColleen Michaels’s poems have been published in Barrelhouse, The Paterson Literary Review, The Museum of Americana, Mom Egg Review, Roar, Stoneboat, Hawai’i Review and others. She directs the Writing Studio at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA.

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