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"A DNA Match Not Known to Me Asks About a Deceased Relative in Common" by Colette Parris

I. What I Read

Born over one hundred years ago to a non-agricultural family in a small, hot country. Baptized seven days later in a parish church alongside a twin brother. Twin brother buried five days after the joint baptism. Feet touched Georgia soil in 1944. Single and “scar left wrist” noted on List or Manifest of Alien Passengers. Second trip to America in 1945, this time by way of Virginia. Still single. Nearest relative or friend in home country: brother-in-law.

II. What I Am Told

Of the five, he was the wayward one. Would leave his parents' house in the dead of night without warning, and stay with cousins for days on end. Made good money at the factory, but was careless with it. When it came to women, he reached for the stars. He ran in circles and never settled down. His siblings shook their heads and clicked their tongues. He died on the island. Never had children.

What makes you think he had a child? Maybe you’re confusing him with his cousin.

I was mistaken. I spoke to someone else and she knew all about the child, a girl.

I never knew he had a twin.

III. What I Suspect

Bare feet aflame as they pound on baked sand by the sea, limbs light and askew, unbalanced because of what is missing. Parents’ house always full and always empty. No respite from the nagging sensation of incompleteness. A golden-brown girl appears, mirage-like. Wholeness for a moment, glimmer of a later half-secret. The moment passes. In America, a conclusion that a ghost cannot be outrun. A tight-lipped, final return.

IV. What I Say

He was born on the island during WWI. His twin brother died in infancy. He worked at a factory. Although ship records indicate that he traveled to the United States in the 1940s, he returned to Barbados and died there. He had a daughter.

Colette Parris is a Caribbean-American attorney whose poetry and prose can be found in Michigan Quarterly Review, The Offing (forthcoming), Cleaver Magazine, Scoundrel Time, MoonPark Review, Lunch Ticket, and elsewhere. Three of her stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in New York. Read more at

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