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Theresa Senato Edwards

Excerpt from Wing Bones

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Talking to the Youngest Sister About Her Oldest Sister

a baby
when you vomit in her mouth:

a (w)hole you didn’t know would
curse your son for living,
his humerus shattered,
but in her way     forgive him


her silence steady through the foyer

you heard her long before her movement

a long aisle

the front of a church
to her stained-glass heart

then she is “matched data
generated from a blood sample”

not ready for your funeral

Talking to the Youngest Sister About Her Middle Sister

When you had breast cancer, she called you
the only time
you knew she’d call

like children’s
tin-can conversation

she saved mother’s thickest bluest yarn, put the knitting bag
of memories in the right-triangle closet under the steps,
found that one blue vein that mothers saved for daughters

through death, your mother tightened the string,

a story’s presence in the can’s metal—


and when she walks into your wake,
she knows what’s on the brink of being gone

Remembering Father

typewriter, near her window, small room,
when that’s all there was
your father told you he never wanted sons

he told her the jungle moved and he shot
into waves, green stars melting
beneath black grass

sisters sharing after years
of nothing

all you smell is her perfume
close your eyes     soak,
cheeks extend                 upward
her scent always reminds

Sparking the Youngest Sister’s Memory

Her Oldest Sister’s Apartment

calling out her window to you
for tea

you were supposed to be learning
when you heard her calling

crack the black-squared remedy, smoke it quiet
on the hill of nothing matters

across from her beautiful third-floor windows
still left
in your world


forensic scientists study the anatomy
of a bird

they gather the carcass left in mid-flight,
pose the necessary questions,
amplify and sequence the mt DNA,
code the curvatures,
compare fractures




Fragments of Her Middle Sister’s Fear

flying things INSIDE,
especially birds

doesn’t consider the bones in wings

never asks, “why become obsessed
with bones?”

but remembers the sun through
that churched
stained glass



Her Middle Sister as Someone Else

She wears matching bra and underwear
you told her you read about a woman who did this,
but the matched woman
never fell through rain
or cried
or became rain
or felt the crack in her sternum every night
because she decided at 18
to weave
a yarned            body armor

even though her heart’s in place again,
after decades                  she still hears that voice
like a cygnet’s cry that will never know its mother—

her sorrow
much slower     than her life
indeterminacy     the secret of

middle sister’s advice:
“seek what will help a heart play its banjo joyfully,
but remember grief”



Her Oldest Sister’s Absence

When she stopped talking to you
you wanted to get cancer,
still in those first two years after surgery,
why not look for digital magnifications: enlarged helix-shaped calcifications
open doors to lockdown,

“both strands of the amplified regions were sequenced and compared with each other to ensure fidelity of the data”: breast bone DNA—fractional evidence of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes

BUT     no harmful mutation


your friend Gloria’s voice
through the phone, she feared mice on
her hospital room wall
her cancer fragmented / mutated
no need for autopsy
you watched her each day dematerialize—
out of that nowhere,
texted your husband and sons,
“I love you”




  1. An earlier version of "Talking to the Youngest Sister About the Middle Sister" was first published at Miriam's Well as part of a Q&A.
  2. Earlier versions of “Remembering Father” and “Break in Sequence / forensic scientists study…” were first published in Gargoyle Magazine, Print Issue # 60.
  3. The dialogue in retrospect in “Her Middle Sister as Someone Else” was sparked by the following Kim Addonizio lines from “Cigar Box Banjo”:
    The heart may be a trashy organ,
    but when it plucks its shiny banjo
    I see blue wings in the rain.
  4. The quotes in “Talking to the Youngest Sister About Her Oldest Sister” and in “Her Oldest Sister’s Absence” were taken from an article summary of “Identification of human remains by amplification and automated sequencing of mitochondrial DNA,” International Journal of Legal Medicine, K. M. Sullivan, R. Hopgood, and P. Gill.

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