A windowless room. Mom and I
remove shoes, socks, spread our arms wide
between the cinderblock wall and locked door.
The guard takes a swallow of V8
before patting us down. Inside, I ask Amber
if this is a maximum security facility.
She tells me they’ve got her in here with murderers
like The Gardener— worked at a daycare,
killed a few kids there, buried them
alive. They gave her yard duty until
she began to name the trees she planted:
Josie, Maggie, Stephanie. Slicing deep
into her thighs, she mortared her wounds
with shit and got gangrene. In a wheelchair now.
Don’t wanna think about her no more, Amber says.
Seeing her every day is bad enough.
An inmate takes Polaroids, two dollars each,
acrylic wall paintings in the background.
One of an angel, feathers fanned out against a pastel sky.
Stand here, Amber says. I want you to have wings.
She’s to my right, our mother to my left. We smile big.
When I dream about my sister she’s a child,
in our Florida backyard, wide-eyed and silent.
She fills buckets with garden snakes,
catches strawberry-necked lizards
poised with the want of a mate.
With one hand she holds a wriggling lizard,
with the other she hinges its jaws open
then closed onto the lobe of her ear.
From The Amoeba Game (Eyewear)
Photo taken by Cătălin Georgescu
Tara Skurtu is an American poet and translator based in Romania. A two-time Fulbright grantee and recipient of two Academy of American Poets prizes and a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship in Poetry, her poems appear in magazines such as Salmagundi, The Kenyon Review, and Poetry Review. Tara is the author of the chapbook Skurtu, Romania and the full poetry collection The Amoeba Game (Eyewear). She teaches creative writing in Bucharest.