I am the girl who burned her doll,
Who gave her father the doll to burn ”
The bride doll I had been given
At six, as a Christmas gift,
By the same great uncle who once introduced me
At my blind second cousin’s wedding
To a man who winced, A future Miss
America, I’m sure ” while I stood there, sweating
In a prickly flowered dress,
Ugly, wanting to cry.
I loved the uncle but I wanted that doll to burn
Because I loved my father best
And the doll was a lie.
I hated her white gown stitched with pearls,
Her blinking, mocking blue glass eyes
That closed and opened, opened and closed
When I stood her up,
When I laid her down.
Her stiff, hinged body was not like mine,
Which was wild and brown,
And there was no groom ”
Who smiled and smiled,
Even when I flung her to the ground,
Even when I struck her, naked, against
The pink walls of my room.
I was not sorry, then,
I would never be sorry ”
Not even when I was a bride, myself,
And swung down the aisle on my father’s arm
Toward a marriage that wouldn’t last
In a heavy dress that was cut to fit,
A satin dress I didn’t want,
But that my mother insisted upon ”
Who gives this woman? ” wondering, Who takes
The witchy child?
And that day, my father was cleaning the basement;
He’d built a fire in the black can
In the back of our backyard,
And I was seven, I wanted to help,
So I offered him the doll.
I remember he looked at me, once, hard,
Asked, Are you sure?
I nodded my head.
Father, this was our deepest confession of love.
I didn’t watch the plastic body melt
To soft flesh in the flames ”
I watched you move from the house to the fire.
I would have given you anything.
(from the collection Sacrifice)