We get our power in odd places.

In A House on Mango Street

she said she felt all her past selves

jangling around inside of her

layers like an onion or one of those

Russian dolls, what do they call them?

I feel them here, too, unwanted presences

myself at nineteen, too tense with nerves

to eat on a date

Eighteen, prostrated on the dirty carpet

of my dorm room, begging God

please, don’t let me feel this way forever

seventeen, dread like lightning

when I saw the school rise before me

the years of suicides like sacrifices

to my father’s corpse

the fat years, where men and children

screamed at me in passing

moved away from me in the halls,

and the time before that

when I was truly a child

Will Itself,

legendary in my stubbornness.

The years bring good things, of course

nineteen, giggling on my friend’s floor,

a microwaved dinner sitting between us

writing awards, one in college,

one in middle school,

eighteen, meeting my best friend,

vodka, Gatoraide, and video games

seventeen, seventeen, must have…

sixteen, fifteen, fourteen, sushi with friends

and lunch in the halls

and middle school friends who ate with me

in the park, who were as strange as I was

or better, stranger

and poems taped onto my teacher’s walls

that I had written, even in elementary school

and love like the sky, taken for granted

in the time when I was Will Itself,

Hanuman in the cradle.

I can hear them still, a thousand ancient shames,

prides, and pent-up, pressed-down desires

curl inside me, not Russian dolls but

the monstrous unfed fetuses of being

I have never had regrets; I never do. For when have I

acted unkindly? For when have I

done wrong? A word, here and there, but never–

but perhaps regret is the miscarriage of these shames, and I, immune

will bear them forever? Wondering always

if the hidden

must be the real

and if so

which of these motley dolls

am I?