When the fleshy clefts healed
in the lambs’ ears, finely edged
with fur, I knew it was time
and grabbed a sheep by the leg.
I flipped her to her back, binding
her ankles with baling twine,
tossed her excrement aside,
snipped at her knees and thighs,
then released the twine to stretch her wide,
rolling back her greasy coat.
Along the tender outskirts of her belly,
flecks of skin populated the wool—
by holding the body too taut,
tenting the skin in the pivot point
of the shears, I etched tilted windows
into her, revealing lavender veins
over a pearl backcloth of fat.
No blood, but her breath caught
each time. The trick, I know now,
is to pull the skin down, nestling
your fingertips against the blade,
and cut as closely to the pelt as you can.
Cut the new sheep out of her that way.
Topography of a Dream
I used to think my son said mama
until I realized it was his word for car,
or for the sound he thinks it makes—
muh-muh-muh. Each day, we idle
in the driveway and he plays with the radio
while I wait for the world to be safer.
He has no interest in its intended utility
until we drive to a lake, where he startles
at the expanse and the wind
whips his face pink and snotty.
He shrieks with the gulls hanging
above us like marionettes
and I shut my eyes to etch
the sound into my bones.
Again and again these days,
I dream my feet are concrete
and I look just in time to see him
twirl away from some glittering fender
like a ribbon in a breeze.
Unable to move, to catch him,
I slump to my knees. I’ve made a rule
for myself: I don’t write the same childhood
scenes anymore, not the ones I once considered
evidence of some suffering, now that I know
the most painful part of mothering
is learning how loved you were.
In the dream, both of us sick with grief,
I drive my mother to a barn filled with owls.
Cats spiral the creaking floor, driven
by duty and hunger, keeping watch
as we try to wade in. The owls know,
she says. I like to think I’m not alone
in my dreams, that other souls
slip in to guide or comfort,
but I’ve been told that each figure
flickers a light over the self.
And it’s not too hard to see my self
in the car that brings us here;
in the barn that holds us all.
In the owls and the cats,
my son in the road,
the truck that refuses to slow;
and my mother
catching me as I fall.