She Sheds Skin Cells

by Wendy Oleson

I sell seashells
while my sister
sheds skin cells,
her days spent
rolling in sand.
Her raw flesh
glows, exfoliated;
my hands smell
like clams. The
prince claims her
swiftly, and soon,
sleep deprivation
makes me angry—
Each night he comes
into our bedroom
(into my sister), and
though they’re soft
and pink, sea slugs
make unsound
earplugs. Worse,
she starts to steal
clams from my chest. Buys
him gifts, buys herself booze. I cut
a deal with a sword-
fish: six shells for a hit,
forget to say, make it
quick. Green glass,
smashed bottles, spread
in the sand where
she gleefully rolls.
The prince’s pretty
castle meets its
bloody queen. Then,
a burial at sea. Flames
lick her up in uneven
waves. What am I
without her? Half.
And nothing left
to burn.

Wendy Oleson is the author of Please Find Us (winner of the Gertrude Press 2017 Fiction Chapbook Contest) and Our Daughter and Other Stories (winner of the Map Literary 2016 Rachel Wetzsteon Chapbook Award). Her stories, poems, and hybrid work have appeared recently in Crab Orchard Review, Cimarron Review, and Copper Nickel. Wendy teaches for the Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension and Washington State at Tri-Cities, and she’s an associate editor for Fairy Tale Review and Memorious Magazine.