Sunday, December 8, 2013

doll trio

Mama's mama's mama
ran a boardinghouse.
She had more once;
her own home with new glass in the windows
and a man who filled a tuxedo quite pleasingly.

Mama's mama's mama
stashed the credenzas and the china cabinets,
the oil paintings of pheasants and fruit,
and all her fine blue-edged china 
upstairs in the attic, above the second floor lodger's rooms.

She didn't lock it,
choosing to believe that people can be trusted,
despite her handsome husband taking a birch branch to the temple
five years before from the angry husband of her best friend Rose.

Mama's mama's mama
used to fix snap beans and talk to her little girl
about the man she would meet when she grew up
and the house they would have
and all the fine furniture upstairs that would be hers one day.
"There will be a guest house in the back with an apple tree for me.
You'll throw wonderful parties and use the punch bowl with the etched swans on it."

Mama's mama's mama's lodgers
cleaned that old girl out.
Every stick gone, except for three ceramic-headed dolls
sleeping on a bed of straw inside a box. 
Mama's mama's mama
gave her those dolls and she mostly wanted to spit on them every time she saw them,
as if they had ruined her dreams themselves
and only stayed behind to gloat.

Mama's mama's mama
died when her girl was 22.
Mama's mama never took very good care of herself,
never cared much what dress she wore or for how many days in a row.
She did learn to make ceramic figures, though,
and yellow giraffes and brown stallions filled the kinck-knack shelves
of her California bungalow.

Mama saw how fragile the figures were,
how easily they could fall and shatter on the floor.
To such a serious and somber girl, 
creating anything like that seemed like asking for it.
Her mama had given her the three dolls and she saved their lives
by never taking them out of their box.

One summer, mama's brothers teased her
cos she wouldn't jump from the tire swing into the river.
Finally, they got her to do it and she landed wrong,
in the shallows,
and the bone sticking out from her leg 
looked white as porcelain.

Mama was a careful woman.
She showed me the three dolls one day,
laying them on the bed where they lay in their casket box.
Mama was a woman who believed that nice things should last forever,
and in 1996 she still had the chairs and table 
given to her as wedding presents
in 1939.

Mama wasn't going to make the same mistakes her mama's mama had made.
She saw the shady side of everyone,
and told me who to beware of
as I rode in the back, trying to keep my feet still
so as not to get dirt on the seat in front of me.
I always knew that mama's things were more important than I was,
and when she finally gave me those wedding present chairs, 
I carried one out to the back yard
and took my husband's sledge hammer to it.

Mama never gave me the three dolls, though.
I expect they've gone some eighty years pristine and perfect,
never being played with once.
On the other hand, I had several of my mama's mama's figures--
I loved them, and through life and moves and hurry,
all but one have broken and now there is just the yellow giraffe left.
One of her legs has a flaw, like mama's does,
but here is the difference between them:
Grandma Hammond made them both,
but even as a child I knew the hand-made giraffe loved me.

"doll trio" at top by Jennifer MacNeill

for Artistic Interpretations with Margaret at Real Toads

My grandmother made me this horse. The horse is actually the lone survivor; my favorite, the giraffe, broke years ago.


TexWisGirl said...

a great tale to read with tinges of great sadness and loss. and i'm guessing a lot of it true.

Sioux's Page said...

Quite a sad and twisted offering, Shay. (But I like sad and twisted...)

hedgewitch said...

The intricate relay of traits and tricks that come down to us, both in our unavoidable blood, and knotted in our brains by our programmers, can be hard to grasp and harder to live with sometimes, but serve up an excellent dish of allegory. Things v people is a no brainer for us, but there are those who seem to be born to get it wrong. This is an up and down ride, with some rough spots, but the end lines make a landing that is safe in the comforting heart of truth. I love the horse.

hedgewitch said...

PS. serves not serve--it's dark in here.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

A harrowing story, whose last line just breaks my old heart.

Helen said...

Tragic .. all the way round. Pity the mamma who misses out on life while insisting it stay neat, perfect .. untouched. Beautiful writing, Shay.

HermanTurnip said...

Great story. And I dig equating a compound fracture to white porcelain. That's darkly beautiful...

Mama Zen said...

This is exquisite in its sadness. So human, Shay! Genuinely affecting writing.

Siggi in Downeast Maine said...

Lots to think about in your piece.
It seemed a bit autobiographical but maybe you charmed the words to read that way. Which ever, an interesting write, keeping interest to the end.

Ella said...

Sadness lingers in material portals they etch our hearts and tug at our souls~ I see truth blurred in this poem- Fragile heart I hope you were mended with your hand-made giraffe!

Wow-what a talented family! The horse is amazing~ Have you tried to make a giraffe? I bet you could!

Anonymous said...

this is beautiful Shay, and sad, and I'm glad you have the horse still. ~

Margaret said...

Shay! It is that added touch of "real" that adds heart to this story-poem. The last stanza particularily moves the heart - it's a bit softer, yes, but what I like about it is the final thrust I think this whole poem is about - the need to be loved.

Kerry O'Connor said...

What I appreciate the most about your poem aside from the honesty with which it is written is the sense of generations of women each laying down the history which their daughters in turn will inherit. I can so relate to this, having grown up on tales of Mama's Mama's Mama who love Mama more than Mama's Mama did. What a convolution successive generations can make of people.