They sit on the shelf now, mostly,
or have moved into boxes of memory,
those soft cloth dolls we once cradled
and cuddled and dragged from bed
to the yard to the car to the store.
They went everywhere with us,
their small yarn eyes always open,
never narrowing in disapproval,
never turning to shine on someone else.
Their plump cheeks eternally blushing,
their smile never uncurling
into disinterest, never snarling
into disdain. We could tell them
everything—about the girl
down the street who jeered
that our plaid pants were too short,
who sneered at the way we ran.
We could tell them about
the blue monster who lived in the closet,
and how he sometimes slipped out
to crawl beneath our bed.
And they listened. And smiled.
And let us hold them and suck
on their hands—or their hats—if that’s
what made the night feel safe.
They never whispered mean
words about us to their friends
while we were off at school.
Sometimes, it’s true, they would
disappear. That’s what all
beloved things do. And then,
days later perhaps, they’d be found
under a pillow on the couch or out
beneath the willow tree sitting
in the dirt beside the shovel and pail.
Now, it is we who have disappeared
into the world of harder things—
keys and doors and ceilings,
and women with words
like sticks and men with eyes
that seldom meet our eyes.
We are too old for dolls.
Still, there is in us, perhaps,
the faded longing to hold something
soft, something so familiar,
something so well loved,
so absent of cruelty
it makes us feel capable
of loving utterly, unguardedly again.