Paper dolls cut from old catalogues
holding hands, their little dresses
uniforms on rounded, eyeless heads;
blue-eyed baby dolls with yellow curls,
tiny nail beds etched on rubber fingers
clutching hard plastic milk bottles
to rounded ruby lips forever open,
like guppies trolling their waters
feeding hungers never satisfied;
a Chatty Cathy, the pull of her string
asking for love, a kiss, a clean dress,
begging for a story or to play house;
Barbie and company: dream kitchens,
makeup mirrors, and pink convertibles–
a ripped and dickless Ken sold separately,
his impotence a bonus in a doll’s world.
Icons of innocence –the playthings of girls
mimicking the million little eggs gifted at birth
tucked neatly inside matching bags
like pennies lying unspent in zippered pockets
waiting for a grown-up shopping spree
and an eye-popping point-of-sale display
selling its siren song of play in real-time.
Stars of Our Own Stories
Even in first grade when I was made
to wear a skirt and hair barrettes,
I was glad to be a girl despite
my teacher’s frown at scuffed Mary Janes
and dirtied lace on white cuffed socks
from playing Four Square at recess.
Worlds were still closed to girls then —
our adventures dared only in our minds
because of breasts and eggs,
blood and Mary the Mother of Jesus.
I played a good game of Four Square
but never expected to preach a sermon,
cure cancer, fight a fire, build Twin Towers,
hang out in locker rooms or sweat.
What was mine was at first comfortable enough:
dolls and cradles, dolls that cried for mama,
dolls with closets of clothes, makeup,
purple roadsters, and dream kitchens.
After school, I sat among them
writing their stories without a censor,
blocking their parts on a stage
that began to spin in psychedelic
colors as they learned their alphabet
and grew words of consciousness
that sizzled with power and crackled with fire,
at first fragile tendrils of possibilities
growing stronger in resistance
as aprons retired and bras burned
at sit-ins hosted by Annie Oakley and Barbie,
dolls keeping what they liked and taking what they wanted:
gilded barrettes and baseball caps,
tree houses with twisted rope ladders
and miniature houses with pink chintz furniture,
high heels and steel-toed boots,
beauty and respect, self-respect
creating beauty in the demand for equality,
a new idea of agency roaring
the politics of orgasm so loudly
the set cracked and the curtain crashed
burying disapproving teachers and fathers–
our standing O a reflection of power
emerging from the dirty shoes and sweat
that made us stars of our own stories.
By Janet Reed
Janet Reed teaches writing, literature, and theater at Crowder College, a community college in Missouri. She is an old hippie who regularly hugs trees, takes in shelter animals, and wears Birkenstocks. Her poetry was published in several journals in 2015, and more are promised in 2016. She enjoys sharing her voice.
Chatty Cathy by Laura Brown
Laura Suzy Brown is a visual artist/image maker working in Brighton and London.