[ToC]

 

THE DOLL

Jason Reed-Mundell

 

 

The doll has a black hand and a white hand.
If one is bored, the doll can be placed in front
of a stove, so that it seems to cook.
With its black hand the doll touches the copper
of the ladle; with its white hand maybe it holds
one's pet cat? One lets the doll hold cats
upright by the throat, sometimes, pressed
against the metal of a stove.
You should also maybe see the doll seem to play piano.
Its perfect black hand appears to dig
into the soft white keys like soil,
and its perfect white hand appears to hack
the brittle, black keys down to the level
of the counter on which they rest.
Water climbs the doll's slender, black hand
When the hand is placed so that it dips into a saucer,
and it seems to drink; and in a blackened room
the doll's slender, white hand is pressed
into unlit bulbs to stroke cold filaments
like coiled, greasy whiskers.
We were in sunlight by the water's edge
and had forgotten the doll. The waves
snapped themselves together like jigsaw puzzles
of Paris above the water's level. The doll
snapped itself together like a jigsaw puzzle
between us and was touching our thighs
with its clever hands. When we got home
or left again, the doll's hands followed us.
I have married you in secret and none
but the doll was there, and it was posed
in such a way that it seemed to be
tearing us apart like paper. On Sundays,
then, the doll was placed so that it seemed to
be driving the car that you were riding in,
or bending the metal of a parked car about you
like an accident. I was reading a similar story
today in the paper—there are
two people, and one of them has a doll
that they gave to the other one. No one bothered                              
to check the doll, and it disappears and returns.
No one thinks to care about the doll,
and it tears up flames from the hearth
like confetti for attention, and no one cares.
There was a photograph of that same doll
placed in a way to seem like it was
with its own oscillating hands pulling children
from a pool of burning gasoline;
and then in the surgery, photographs of doctors
worked frantically to position the doll so as to seem
that it was having skin hewed from its back,
and even then on the table
it evaporated and congealed.

But as he told her this, the doll crawled up onto the table between them, and it read through the paper while they watched; and when it was done, it looked from one to the other; and the woman was angry, because she knew the doll did not like her. She left, and the doll turned to the man and spoke to him:

In the back of the paper, next to the forecast,
there is an article about your old home town:
But you haven't read it? It seems a hurricane
sometime last year ate Cleveland's weather
and vomited it out into the desert around Salt Lake.
When Cleveland's weather grew back,
another hurricane came, and it held a tornado
in its vaporous hand like a hypodermic syringe.
It drew off the sheet of thick, gray cloud
like stale blood. It jabbed with the tornado
at the roof of your old house, and chipped it away.
Your mother and your siblings were inside,
and with them a woman you've never met,
hiding the particles of your children
in the silken labyrinth of her evening gown.
The hurricane drew them all into the tornado
and carried them with him.
The hurricane raged with clinical precision
through all the famous cities and the wastes between.
He tore through sunrises like curtains of spiderweb,
and when he came to Berlin he injected
the sheet of cloud into the sky and your family
into scattered balconies along the canal.
The mayor of Berlin has a black
hand and a white hand. In the park, a flock
of swans attack a black bear like hounds, and
the bear tears them from his fur with
savage sobs. The mayor of Berlin
staggers from house to house like an
ignited match. He drags your screaming daughter
by the hand from street to street and
finds you barely conscious in the cafe. She
remembers you vaguely, and her eyes
grow clear. She wipes her cheeks dry,
and she sighs.

Here is the crisis. Your daughter, who has
not been born, has come to find you. She's come
from somewhere that hasn't happened,
and from inside the body of your wife.
Your wife knows that her child's life is in
jeopardy, and that she has never met you.
She knows that she stands at the beginning of a maze.
Your daughter pulls you barely walking
through wrecked buildings and alleys
like a thread winding itself before you into a ball.
The stones of the houses are gelatinous drops of rain.
The maze is dissolving like weeping animals of sugar.
When it's gone, there will be no other.

The time is short. It took 36 years to build this puzzle
from the ground up. The maze is a single, straight
tunnel like the barrel of a gun.

You walk out from the metal into sunlight,
and your family falls upward into your arms.
There's more to be done, but this is just the end
of a fever, where one's home uprights itself
out of apparent nothingness and begins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Life and death, Baby.