MY LIFE AS A DOLL
by Elizabeth Kirschner
from I. Cuckoo
Why do I love the winter garden so?
Is it because I hear the dirge
of dirt, elegy of vanquished blossoms?
Whatever emerges at season’s end
comes from a harrowing heaven: yesterday,
I believed I was a wooden woman
with a wooden heart the wolves
would tear apart. I jerked
about like a marionette with
tangled strings—slash of claws, teeth
sinking in to rip the flesh off
my wooden bones. When I was four
years old, my mother pummeled
the back of my head with a baseball bat.
I remember the pain. I remember
hitting the floor like a scarecrow
that was a heap of broken straw.
This is why I love the winter garden so:
energy of enigma. Icy blossoms.
from II. An Itty Bitty Ditty
Pretty, said Mom
on the night of the prom,
but she meant my shadow
of bone, of shroud,
a net with hooks.
What did I catch?
boy after boy
who were out to enjoy
sweets for the sweet,
but I was dog meat,
and my body knew the pain
of hammers and saws.
I was a wishbone
utterly broken by boys
who poked and prodded
until my mind boggled
with mish-mash dreams
snagged in my bug-a-boo soul.
I was a voodoo doll
my mother stuck pins in.
Pretty, she said as though
I were a ditty, an itty bitty
ditty not even God would pity.
Ditty gone silent. Ditty
gone numb as a thumb,
from III. Tra-la-la
In the psych ward, I remained
a dust-baby. One breath
would blow me into the four corners
of the wind. I clutched
my baby picture and my son’s
favorite teddy bear. Lions
walked out of walls. Howler monkeys
screamed their cries of grief.
It was all wave and wavering.
I watched the river from my window—
it was the color of mother-of-pearl
and the snow died in it.
I fell to my knees while remembering
how much my mother loved
the dogwood blossoms:
each was a pink velvet boat.
I was ready to be castaway,
but in what dark harbor
would I be utterly human
which is to say, hardly begun?
from IV. O Healing go Deep
My demons came inside the house
to attack with their black and red
scaled reptilian wings, a nightmare
of chimera. They flew low, screeching,
and I screamed so loud my husband
could hear me on the street.
He found me in a ball, fed me
meds, but still demons lit upon me
full throttle. They pushed me into a shell
and I tumbled, head down in death’s canal.
Wordless, hell was wordless and I
was in it. Eyes closed tight, I was a great
ocean falling apart. My bones snared in
sticky webs, my flesh as well. Winter’s ghost
flew into me and my soul loosened
like an eye from its socket. Elizabeth,
Elizabeth, came my husband’s voice.
Was that my name? Elizabeth, Elizabeth.
Wing and wavelength, breath surrounding
a star tree. Elizabeth, Elizabeth.
A foster self slowly came round, woke
to the world and cried, bye-bye, bye-bye.