Click here to listen to Debra Nystrom read this poem.

Some girls still do it at about that age, end of grade-school, together warding off

the thought of boys, wearing identical
shirts and pants, maybe different-colored

stripes or trim, haircuts not quite the same. 
Jan and I exchanged rings with our rhyming

nicknames engraved inside, no thought
of anything odd in it, or of how desperate

we each were to be complete, sealed off
from desolate moms –Jan’s left by a second


husband for someone else again, marooned,
too shook up to remember milk or bread half

the time, or when the school day ended;
my mom a real twin whose twin, shipped out

to Asia with the navy, had let her fall
to a rip-tide marriage along with me, little


dead-weight, little buoy.  Late afternoons
Jan and I drifted past the government housing,

the cemetery, beyond the ragged edges of  town,
imagining ourselves, like the great heroines

we knew nothing about, as orphans of
indecipherable lineage, looking out one way

toward the river, the other across a prairie-ocean,
for our secret origins.  Stormy days, drying off

from the walk home before Jan’s mom came in
after work, we’d open the old Brittanica at

random and laugh, or page through Life
Magazine as if analyzing data we’d collected

on remote shores: music twisting out of an LSD
researcher’s stereo like toothpaste; a pair of

overalls issued by the Russian state with two
matching hairbows, for the tilted heads of Masha

and Dasha, Siamese twins attached at the back, each
looking out from a life that wasn’t really her life.