Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.

— Virginia Woolf

Everything You Could Have Been

by Elizabeth Vignali

(human to her parasitic twin)


A parasitic twin results when identical twins do not fully separate and develop unequally. One twin—the autosite—grows into a relatively independent human, while the parasitic twin stops developing and remains attached to the autosite to varying degrees.


I’ve seen photos of the others:

the boy with his small brown brother

head-first in his torso

as if searching for the rest of him,

the girl child with four arms

and four legs like some ancient Hindu deity,

the man with legs spilling from his stomach.


I wear your face on my side.

Your eyes half closed so you don’t look

upon the one who—if circumstances

were different—would have been a true reflection,

not this carnival mirror who magnifies

everything you could have been.


I wonder, again, how aware you are.

If you have a soul in there, or half a soul.

If you resent me for turning you into the part

human you are. An involuntary fetal magician:

Watch as I make my twin sister disappear!

Marvel at the incredible shrinking human!


Funny they call you the parasite

when I’m the one who took your life.

I brush your hair as if that could atone

for it. I wash your face, so much like my own.

With the sharp edge of my fingernail,

I sweep the yellow sleep from your eyes.



ELIZABETH VIGNALI is an optician and writer in Bellingham, Washington. Her poems and stories have appeared or are forthcoming in various journals, including Willow Springs, Crab Creek Review, Floating Bridge Review, Nimrod, and Stirring. Her chapbook, Object Permanence, is available from Finishing Line Press.


The truth may be stretched thin, but it never breaks, and it always surfaces above lies, as oil floats on water.

—Cervantes, Don Quixote

© 2016 The Indianola Review