Nested Woman

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Contributor: Barbara Carlton

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In my drifting state I imagine my children
as they will soon un-layer me. First--this is easy--
they’ll strip off the husk I became at last; hurl away
the bottles of useless pills, cans of pretend food, all such
hated, well-meant insults. But

inside the husk they’ll find the woman they knew, or
thought they did, who drove them to school when
the mountains echoed with birdsong, endured their
sicknesses and the beatings of their tempers, adored
the ashtrays they made for her in fifth grade--although
she hated smoking, cheered their races, and let them go
when it was time. Hers
are the easy touchstones: mixing bowls and
hiking boots and their kindergarten artwork, and
her fifties-green, round-shouldered electric
Smith Corona. And

under these they’ll confront the woman, unlined
and smooth-lipped, about whose life they never
thought to ask, whose face, even, is a stranger
to them. Perhaps I should have told them
where the little painting came from, and why the box
in the drawer, inlaid with mother of pearl,
is empty, and how my mother, who hated sewing,
made for my child-self the quilt I took from her house
when she was dead. Yes,

I think, maybe I should have told; but
then it hardly seemed to matter, and now
the sky is clearing in the mountains
and I am a rain cloud under the sun.

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I am a writer and architect living in the San Diego, California, area. My parents are long dead and my children are grown. It's a good vantage point for thinking.


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