Sister Zero by Nance Van Winckel

Sister Zero


Morphined up in the last minutes of my dream, my sister had been saying she'd wake next as a swim-noodle—"ha ha!"—to "buoy us."


See? See? Across the distant waves? That soft sister  0  stretched out    out    out  into a numeral  1.   Something . . .  something about the codes.


The eyes blink.            Think!           All possible codes.


Dark rumors on dark winds had herded us inside the buoys. We float-wonders. Treading. Treading near the wide loud mouth of the coldest deepest blue.



For all indented porpoises,

there bobbed no threat,

no prize, no matter.



Author's note: These four micro-essays are excerpted from a memoir in progress called Sister Zero. The book's nucleus is a pair of suicides: my sister's and, fifteen years later, her son's.


Nance Van Winckel's fifth book of fiction is Ever Yrs., a novel in the form of a scrapbook (2014, Twisted Road Publications); her eighth book of poems is Our Foreigner (Beyond Baroque Press, 2017, winner of the Pacific Coast Poetry Series). A book of visual poetry entitled Book of No Ledge appeared in 2016 with Pleiades Press. The recipient of two NEA Poetry Fellowships and awards from the Poetry Society of America, Poetry, and Prairie Schooner, she has new poems in The Pushcart Prize Anthology, Field, Poetry Northwest, and Gettysburg Review. She is on the MFA faculties of Vermont College of Fine Arts and E. Washington University's Inland Northwest Center for Writers.