Poetry by Lucy Whitehead: Lost Dolls
What piece of me have I left inside that china doll? Even
at forty three I still wonder if she is propped somewhere
in a tattered cardboard box, face broken, the smell of mould
in her auburn ringlets and the faded velvet flowers
of her skirts. Which part of me is lost with her,
the child that whispered confidences in the dark,
the voice that answered. Where are they now.
My first, the one who cried mama when I tipped her,
spilling golden curls, an echo of the baby
I had been, a soul mirror, a plastic repository of self,
a poppet, a psychic home, a spirit spell. We were
inseparable for years, the hard plastic
hug of her body enough.
The dollhouse child I squashed inside a matchbox,
when I was five, cramming rubber limbs
into that tiny space, isolating her from her friends.
Which part of me did I fold into the darkness
of that airless cardboard cage.
The Swiss doll grandma gave me that I kept
even after her arm fell off, silken plaits frizzed,
sleeve torn, hem of her dress unravelling, some aura
of grandma still clinging to her fragile frame.
I remember the night I took all the dolls from their boxes,
stood them on my bedroom floor, stayed awake
for hours, certain they would come to life, watching
a dozen pairs of moonlit eyes, hoping they would blink.
Disappointed when they did not.