sheep in the wolf

It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, memory, or maybe it’s the other way around: how the devil slinks up into the backs of my brain, flashes of what’s lost or what used to be; what could have been. This is where we are now, stuck in a new reality. I’ll start over when I turn the page. I’ll start over.

It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, memory is, or maybe it’s the other way around, a sheep in wolf’s skin, the history that pushes up my spine into awareness some nights brings bared fangs and glisten, brings those eyes with the yellowing whites, brings that battered, matted fur and the thin possibility of escape from steamy breath in chilly summer fog evenings.

But what’s on the underside of that cartilage, that exoskeleton, that drape over the shoulders is the sneaky inside shape of dingy grey curls and lambs wool, the sweet breath of how we used to wish on falling stars and clap fireflies into jelly jars and sickle the summer afternoon air with our swinging pumping legs.

I mean the good and lovely hides inside the loss, the way an angry dinnertable altercation hides within it the careful way my sister and I made the evening salad, how we tore the iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes into bright rubies, nettled the carrots into shavings with a grater. The memory of my stepfather’s rage is the overcoat

and underneath was how my sister and I could bear up under that grey weight, learned – what do I want to tell you? – about keeping a straight face while telling lies I mean, we learned ourselves the uses of wearing the wolf or the sheep as needed. The way the memory at first glance is so often a covering for the deeper, quieter memory hidden inside the first the way dreams go: you see one layer and when you’re waiting or telling that one down, another layer emerges, another part of the dream, another figuring

and I am grateful for the way my brain pulls the wool over my eyes, reveals the difficult stuff first because it knows that I am not so trusting of beauty, and it slips the pure stuff in to my consciousness sideways and beneath a red cape it shows me the strengths I carried, my sister carried, even as all I could see at first is the terror: the way we were edged to resilience, the sheep the wolf, the hidden simplicity inside the mask, the way what I think I remember is never, at first, the whole story at all

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