A Sister Lost: a Twin Remembered

In honor of Memorial Day, I’m remembering my identical twin sister Martha, who died several days after we were born. 

Twins born a month premature had little chance of survival in 1962, a time before medical science knew how to save the tiniest of infants.  I weighed just over 3 pounds, Marty just over 2.  The doctors promised my parents neither of us would survive, but it seems even then I was determined to beat the odds.

This poem is written in the voice of my sister, who describes our experience in the womb:  the veins lining the inside of the placenta we shared, her efforts to recite poetry about our time together , the fact that I was growing more quickly than she.

Hope you appreciate this poem about a primal kind of bonding and the profound sadness of losing someone whose DNA was identical to mine, someone who mirrored me even before the beginning, when “I” was “we” and “we” were wombed as one.


 To my twin sister who lived to tell about it


The room, which was poorly lit

     and warmer than we wanted,

     curved around us

               like planetarium


               like the rind

                    of cantaloupe

                    as seen from the inside


I remember how you traced

     the networking of veins

     with the stub that became

                  the index finger

                  of your left hand


While I recited garbled

     poems about

           the splitting

                  of space

          the fact that you were

                 gathering more




37 thoughts on “A Sister Lost: a Twin Remembered

  1. I’m so sorry for the loss of your sister. They say twins share a bond that those who are not twins can never quite comprehend. I’m sure this is part of the reason you still feel her and understand her yet today.


  2. Beautiful. Sad. I wonder if the loss of your sister had a role in your later struggles. Perhaps a link that was meant to support was broken too early. Sorry, I’m struggling to find words today. Your words always share so eloquently.


  3. haunting, beautiful, longing, and lovely.
    I can’t imagine a loss like that–what an amazing thought that one day you will be reunited and share this togetherness.


  4. It is a lovely, poignant poem.
    I, too, wonder about the trauma of losing her and your struggle to survive at such a vulnerable stage in development. I don’t believe it pre-determined your course through life, but I wonder if it created a nexus of possibility—one of those focal points in our lives where several potential paths are available.
    Sending you love and good memories.


    • Fascinating comment, Sandy! “Nexus of posibility”–great term! You know how trauma can trigger the genetic inclination for these illnesses. I can’t help but wonder what life would have been like had she lived, and if she too would have had this illness. I can only assume she would have. Thanks for the love and good wishes this morning!


  5. Oh Kathy, so sad this happened to you and your twin, but a lovely tribute you’ve written.
    I read a book recently, “The Thirteenth Tale”, that talks a lot about the bond between a woman and her twin who died at birth – even though it was fiction, it illustrated to me the incredibly strong bond twins can share.


  6. Kathy, thank you for this. My mother lost my twin about 7 months into pregnancy, and I’ve had that strange feeling of losing a relationship that technically I never had. This is some powerful, healing stuff!


  7. An odd thought from my crazed mind. Maybe on some level your twin survived on in you. Could partially explain the multiplicity of your emotions and the difficulties you have faced in a way. You house parts of two distinct personalities. Just one of my whacked ideas :^)


  8. As usual lately, getting to things late. This gave me an eerie feeling, as my dad was also in identical twin whose brother died, in their case, shortly after birth while Dad, against all odds, survived. My mom, though not a twin, also beat the odds, being born very late and way too small — 4 pounds. Grandpa used to joke there were better looking chickens in the butcher’s window. It always affected both.


    • Fascinating– This may sound like strange question, but I wonder if either or both your grandfather or mother, remained relatively small their entire lives. I am by far the shortest of all my siblings.


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