Tea Time in Dollhouses


The sky was colored different that day

Though I doubt we noticed

Your home always swallowed light

Even the shag carpet consumed our toes

You said, I wish someone would take me away

Maybe you were playing Chopin on the piano

While I laid at your feet, staring up at the popcorn ceiling,

Designing gods and ghouls, slipping in and out of the music

The notes filling my head with poetry I would save for a later date

Or maybe we were stretched out on the sofa

Watching Charlie’s Angels reruns, fighting over who’d be

Jill with the hair and the perfect groin kick

Madonna or Lauper? Morrissey or Violent Femmes?

You were ten, looking to be rescued

I was eleven, still drawn to your dollhouse

Dressing the porcelain family to sit in their

Wallpapered rooms with Victorian furniture and

Silverware that slipped through our fingers

I made up lives,

You hid from yours

Sketching women with long faces, distant eyes,

Swollen lips, one swoosh for a nose

They looked like you —

Bored beauties in wrong time periods,

Looks that made people want to

Dive into your darkness, line up for rescue

I was born into cowboys and horsehide,

Left to sink or swim in pretty dresses, forming a strange sisterhood

You rubbed gravestones with coal to hang above your bed

Allowed the privilege of being weird without the label

I stared at the name of a dead stranger wondering about her short life,

(you always picked the flames snuffed out at dawn)

Telling stories of who we thought she was and if her ghost

Lingered above, these immortal little girls,

Prattling on with grand notions

When the reality was most likely boring and painful

I said lets go outside

There was a garden to hide in,

I always sought the incandescent blooms

But you preferred hiding in plain sight

The argument grew louder that day

Worse somehow

Too late to pull you into sunlight

And drag you into the flowered corners

We stayed absorbing the bulleted blow of words

Paralyzed, unwilling  to call attention to the

Madness in the next room

Too late to escape to the garden

You drew while I sketched scenarios in the dollhouse,

Making up happy ending before you declared

I wish they would just get divorced.

But I wouldn’t let them

Not the dolls in their perfect home

You knew before I tidied each of their rooms,

Pouring imaginary tea into miniature thimbles,

The house was no longer a home.


19 thoughts on “Tea Time in Dollhouses

  1. Marissa Bergen

    Such a poignant capturing of sisterhood in an unhappy home. My sister and I were products of an eventual divorce as well so I related on a lot of levels….not to mention Lauper and The Violent Femmes.

  2. Don Royster

    If you never write another thing, you have written “Your home always swallowed light”. That means you could very well be immortal. And I’ve met people like this: “people want to Dive into your darkness”. They are scary. And how sad for this person whom it is “Too late to pull you into sunlight And drag you into the flowered corners.” Oh, and that powerful last line. The poem left me with a lot of curiosity about what happened to the other person. The poem made me think about relationships I had when I was a kid. What happened to those people?

    1. Don Royster

      As an afterthought and another reading, this person seemed like a precious vase. Then I minimized the page and looked at how the poem appeared on the page. It was like a road with curves. The shape of a poem can often tell what the poem is about.

      1. desertdweller29

        Wow! You don’t miss anything. I didn’t want to break the poem into stanzas. I wanted it to be a meandering road. Thank you for your keen eye and observations!

    2. desertdweller29

      You know, I’m still friends with her. Her parents divorced five tumultuous years later and she’s an artist now, like her mother. She actually gave me the dollhouse to give to my daughter because I loved it so much! So strange how things end up. Thank you for your lovely comment.

  3. Debbie

    I’ve always heard “Little pitchers have big ears.” Kids are so like that. They always hear…and know…even if the adults around them try to shield them from the bad stuff. This one is very moving, DD — beautifully captured slice of childhood!

  4. L. T. Garvin, Author

    What a moving scene of childhood and the all too familiar pain of an unhappy home. So beautiful, and powerful, especially the lines where you wished to pull her into the sunlight and into the flowered corners. It is also touching that she gave you the dollhouse. Such a wonderful, poetic story. I enjoyed it immensely.

  5. ramonawray

    Oh, wow, DD – so much pain in this… It feels like a punch in the gut, it does! Once again, the imagery you are able to summon with your beautiful words is truly intoxicating. And there is such limberness to your ability… You’re a chameleon 🙂 Very well done, my friend.

  6. thefeatheredsleep

    I love childhood poems
    ‘your home always swallowed light’
    you knew you’d get me with that one.
    You write things I want to read. Yep. It’s that simple.
    I’m also a huge pain fan because it takes GUTS to expose it.
    You my girl, you have guts and glory. You are a poetess of the highest order and I’m always going to be a fan.

      1. thefeatheredsleep

        I really love that phase! (you are the queen of guts and glory!) you must use that! because the SAME can be said of you – why do you think I like you so much?! 😉 xoxox

  7. thefeatheredsleep

    PS: Had to re-read this one, just LOVING the details here. You really create an entire world of a memory in one poem and it’s just one of the best ones you’ve written (and to think … no desert images and I still love it?). I’m blown away by this. WELL DONE is all I can say because I don’t have a hat to take off but if I did I would take my hat off to you my friend

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