Things I Have to Say About My Sister
BY PORTIA ELAN
My twin has been in jail for a hundred years: she teaches the other inmates the
ways to skin a cat. I don’t know how.
Before she went away: we didn't speak like human beings. We spoke like
animals: scent, intuition, wary circles.
The crime she committed? Ask me the color of her eyes, her favorite TV show;
ask me what she eats in the mornings or how long she has been the stronger twin.
Yes. We sent letters; she wouldn’t see me.
In our twenties she mocked me: book mouse, coward, little bitch, baby baby baby.
I listened to all of our mother's stories: There are men in the trees, waiting. I
asked: waiting for what? My twin knew without asking.
When we were children we thought our father kept our souls locked in his gun
safe: safe. We ran feral; damming and undamming creeks, slingshoting sparrows,
dewinging bees. Nothing we did could touch our souls. I broke the skin of my
knees, elbows: the damage of a body in motion.
We grew up in the mountains we learned survival: the taste of lichen, squirrel,
pine sap needles, whittled sticks to stakes, followed our father's rough strokes
against the hanging deer. We could tell the types of trees: Mountain-table from
Shagback. Hemlock from pine. This for kindling, this for pine nuts, this for
She came to see me before they caught her. Smiling. Always, she has been the
How many ways are there to skin a cat, a deer, a man?
In her letters, my twin says she dreams of the day we unlocked the gun safe and
we both felt: a great rending – our soul had been in our bodies all along; it was
split between us.
Portia Elan is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. She knows a great deal about heresy, Dewey, and queer politics, but little-to-nothing about chemistry, coffee-making, or Romanticism.