Each Self

by Andrea Potos

My six-year-old daughter stares into the purpling
copper sky and names it dusk, a just-learned word
she is happy to declare, comparing it to evening
and afternoon. We talk of how the earth turns away
from the sun each night,
a motion so encompassing,
our bodies cannot know it.
I don’t tell her how the child
part of me still disbelieves it—that this globe
actually spins while we breathe, while my daughter
changes invisibly before my eyes,

her infant body submerged inside her
with her toddler waddle and her four-year-old skip,
each swallowed within the other
like the nesting dolls she keeps
on her new desk, each self
perfectly preserved, forsaken
for the one that must come after.

From Yaya’s Cloth. Iris Press, 2007.
Reprinted with permission.

Read this and other poems by Andrea Potos in Yaya’s Cloth, available for purchase online.

Leave it to a mother, while looking out at the sunset with her daughter, to observe how we hold all the selves we’ve ever been inside us like “nesting dolls,” one fitting easily within the next. We “change invisibly” before each other’s eyes, and must “forsake”—no matter how difficult that can be—“each self . . . for the one that must come after.” I love how this poem moves seamlessly from the specific experience of a mother and daughter sharing a moment toge