I loved the game, the gentle unscrewing of self,
the soft creaking of the wood, a regular denuding.
First, the outer shell was cracked, swollen arthritic bones
and by invitation
we went down to greet the costumed women.
They are clothed as we remember them.
We finger them tenderly,
descending until my nail can’t find a cut,
until I hold you in my hand, tiny, complete –
Then, when your fantastic ordinary life is arrayed,
like a xylophone for me to hammer out your tones,
in a dancing line of blinking stones and just-blossoming jasmine,
set by girdles inscribed with golden mottos,
a caravan of chips and cracks,
a row of innocent eyes and wicked smiles,
the process in reverse, the smallest doll is covered.
I am careful to complete the formalities, in case it is the last time,
aligning the hips and the arms,
until by gradual compaction, the past is hidden,
darkened in a pregnant piece, a family toy.
(First published in Biscuit Publishing, 2003 Prizewinners; Goodreads Newsletter, July 2015 Contest, Finalist.)