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by Julie Reeser

Donkeys are hardy, tough little things. They take a beating, carry a load. They are stubborn and good at plodding forward, onward and onward and onward.

I used to be a dancer, but stopped the summer my father woke me with insistent hands. When I told my mother what he’d done, she replied she wasn’t surprised. I never knew if she meant by him or me. I hung up my dancing shoes and found a farrier willing to provide a gait of escape; wolves surrounded me with slavering tongues.

When my father died, they asked me not to attend the funeral. They were afraid of seeing me in my donkeyskin. It was still leaving a trail of blood everywhere I went, so I suppose they knew what was best. The funeral home did let me have a moment alone with him. The irony was not lost on me. We were both all raw edges, him from the bone saw with his heart exposed, me with my donkeyskin rotting on my frame. I hissed out my hatred. My teeth hurt from containing the braying rage. I must be quiet, so as not to wake the dead. I was afraid they would tell me to leave if I allowed reality to show. Why the respect for this dead? He deserved to be violated; cut him again, pull out his liver. Let me watch.

Later that year, I learned that I had a half-sister. She saw his obituary and tracked me down. Bittersweet. She was spared him. She was lovely and unbroken. I had little room for family in a heart clotted with clay. When my mother found out, she came to me in distress, waking me from a sound sleep. It took an unblemished princess to show her his true face, I guess. I pulled the donkeyskin around my body and tried not to feel the sting.

Despite the protection, it does get heavy. It does stink. It does draw the eye. I was afraid to put it off, though. Afraid of the whip. Afraid of facing the journey without it. Afraid of accidentally leaving it where my own daughter might pick it up and try it on. Who was I underneath that tough hide?

A stable or being stable, both were provided by time and work. I finally traded in the donkeyskin for two dresses, one made from the moon and one made from the sun. The moon is for my melancholy; I wear it when the ghosts come calling. The sun is for my child fair of face, full of grace, and when I wear it we sing and dance about the place.

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Julie Reeser lives at the bottom of a stone bowl in Montana. Her poetry and short stories have been published in Black Denim Lit, Zoetic Press and their imprint NonBinary Review, Grendel-Song, Whirlwind Magazine, and Timeless Tales Magazine. Her poetry chapbook is titled Terracotta Pomegranate. She offers handwritten poetry postcards and writing inspiration through her Patreon.

What inspires you to write and keep writing?

There is an aspect of puzzle-solving and magical thinking for me in writing. I love the challenge of finding the right words to open a window to a new perspective, that will maybe...just maybe tilt the world closer to compassion. It is the closest I can get to performing real magic.


WaddlingDragon said...

Donkeyskin is an amazing piece. I would even go so far as to say, an "important" piece.