Cheryl A. Rice


I found a doll in a second-hand store,
sawdust and glue, composition,
once in vogue, now naked,
chipped, web of cracks blemishing her once holy face.
Slender as in youth, mohair wig frayed,
I am to heal her, have carried her
from apartment to apartment, neatly bagged,
shreds of her hair tucked in an envelope.
I mean to do this.

Routine exam, make up for
swooning doldrums of last year,
I am called back, second look.
Closer inspection, doctor tells me
it’s probably nothing,
but to be sure we need to biopsy.
Faithful, harmless breasts,
not perfect but symmetrical.
Who’s betraying who?
No lumps, no lead but still
with all Flash Gordon machinations,
they still need to cut to be sure.

I’ve read about a way to cure cracks in compo.
It involves steam, wax paper.
My nameless doll cries not for mercy,
doesn’t feel effects of the bag,
yet I hear her soul shimmering in the closet,
can’t bear to return her to another shop,
or worse, the trash, where wood, bone, paint
would return in time to base molecules.
Something won’t let me, yet I never find the time
to make her fully live.

Face down on the table,
right breast hangs ready
to be milked by the needle.
At home we kid about the dust of human kindness
being all they can produce.
There’s proof now they bleed,
they bruise, they need looking after,
though there is nothing new for me to do.
Smooth skin punctuated by round, pink faucets,
theatrical flourish in the show of my body.
It is us against them; we show no mercy.
Tests return barren.

I remove her from her plastic chamber,
lady doll without mark or maker.
Her perfect chest is smooth, suggestive,
no scars, no nicks to show for her survival
She is my mother’s age, and I am hers.
We dwell in this house of plaster and lathe,
windows leaking in storms.
Our imperfections, wide awakenings
make us whole inside.
Both subject to the elements,
calcifications of one kind or another,
we take diagnoses now with the salt
that makes it all go down,
truth inside our tick-tock hearts
rewound, restrung, returned to Day One.

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