I saved the dollhouse
for you and you knew it
coming in the back door
babies played cheap
we bought it off the street
rich folks’ castaway
that’s why we saved it
not for cheap
but for babies
more than one
with our son
that’s why it’s still there
by the back door
not to remind you
the broken promise
that’s why I’m afraid
you were afraid
not of the dollhouse
but our son’s babies
in your womb
not worth saving
that picture now
of babies playing with a dollhouse
by our back door
There in the chair between us sits Truth, stopping in
from marching on¬¬—a visit unsolicited.
Sculpted clean by a crystalline source,
the visage belies time.
We look away.
Can this be for real?
Beside us sits Truth. Alive.
We dare not stare. Dumbfounded,
such moments belong to
midnight cockroaches at the flick
of a switch, cats in a frozen frame before the hiss.
Momentarily blinded by the luminescence,
arms reach out to touch, fingers
beg to do the work of blinded eyes
hungry for chiseled, for dimpled
for fine and full, furrowed, sculpted
craggy or seamed.
Truth allows the groping,
palpating a throat for evidence.
Is there air there?
a Holy Ghost moment when nothing
registers, everything evaporates.
Truth marched on.
The Body Count
Days like today, October Carolina blue days,
spectacular and muted colors
called down from high branches
resemble that September New York City blue day
when no one called ashen bodies down
from shattered, exploding windows
and that gaping egregious hole.
Two, holding hands in free fall
landed on an innocent passer-by.
No one saw it coming.
Now two in adjacent rooms are called
to the end with restricted viewing,
added to the body count not even an airplane
driven into a tower could cause,
in a flurry of code blues beyond
a building’s capacity to contain.
Seventy feet down to bedrock
walls drip from the fight to hold back
the Hudson River,
wandering souls mingle with
the stunned alive
and up top
two deep pools wash and flush down
the sins of mankind.
How will this present death field be marked
beyond the newscasts, into the dimming of days?
Some deep hole to accommodate astronomical numbers;
some amount of water to wash away an incurable scourge;
some beckoning to mourn
the desperate quiet lives
that had no alternative,
not even a window.
I scrub and scrub. I scrub
the hell out of the house
yes, the hell
cowering in corners
under the bed, out in the open
between my ears inside my head
murky and sticky like sludge
noisy as birds at dawn
entrenched like soldiers of war
drenched in mourning
hungry for a soul in turmoil
sickening the air unaware.
I scrub with lathered tears
to scour and tear and purge
what stinking stench pervades
the heart-rooms and wounds
festered over days and moons
dark nights and dirges
and now I scrub with raw hands
bare to the bone of despair
and there in the mirror
a novel reflection.
How Dare You Bring It Up
I hated your poem, could not stop
until the end, when satiated
sick to death with your father’s sadistic wink
how he sets you up like that—you
the innocent child—
the way your feather brush
and just the right light
capture the glint in my own father’s eye
before his wink
delivers the message.
Linda Vigen Phillips’s poems have appeared in such places as The Texas Review, The California Quarterly, NC Poetry Society Award-Winning Poems, Wellspring, and Windhover, and are forthcoming in The Friends Journal and Amethyst. She has two published YA novels in verse, Crazy and Behind These Hands. She lives in Charlotte, NC.