Carnival Evening Sisters, 1987
By Laura Perlberger

Two costumed figures arm in arm, so much smaller than their world:
Queens Esther and Vashti, of course.
I got to be Esther Malka, it was my Hebrew name, after all.
Yes, “the hidden queen” I was, hiding in my
pink cape and face makeup. Keren Dvora sounded like
“divorce” to me, but she yelled when I said it.

We both knew, but it was Purim, and we pretended not to see;
we pretended our newly won goldfish would live past a week
in their tiny bowls. We were royalty in our tinfoil crowns
and big house. The royal pets wouldn’t die, and
the queens wouldn’t lose their family.

We played with our gragers to not hear anything
around us: not noise, but dark absence that needed
royal racket. The royal parents only fought in court,
but that day we learned how to scratch.
And that day, two wounded queens got scars
that actually could heal.

In our yellow bathroom, we stood at twin sinks
washing the day off our faces: pretty colors down the drain.
That night we held each other and my
Holly Hobbie. The world was too dark to sleep
alone. We never know what face could be peeking through
the window, ready to take Swimmie’s life,
or change ours entirely.