Every layer of me is a thin shell of linden wood. The outermost is the mother—calm,
unblinking-–a resolute smile frozen on her pale-cheeked face. Her body meticulously 
hand painted with slithering vines and budding flowers, the colors are faded beneath  
a translucent sour-yellow glaze, fissured by time. She is the keeper of all of my other 
selves, nestled deeply within. A tight-lipped guardian of their most fragile memories.

Swift fingernails worrying at the equatorial seam around her tumescent stomach
I pry the two stubborn halves apart, widening the gap, then twist and pull 
to reveal the next iteration. Pry, twist, pull-–again, again—lining them 
all up side by side in a row that stretches backwards through my
lifetime, each more diminutive, her story told in fewer words.

As each begins to speak I say yes, you are me,
I remember being you but I’m searching 
for the smallest one, and when she is
revealed at last, crouched alone
in the center, I suddenly
realize that, even
then, I felt