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Page 250

From a chair (more like a tilted, cushioned basket)
in our living room, the wide-eyed, rosy-cheeked face
of a big rag doll gazes up at me. Pam made it years ago,
used it as model to illustrate my poem, "The Doll's
Journey." I looked back at it one morning
(I was exercising, jogging in place, going nowhere,
the start of most stories), and it seemed to look back at me,
undeniably looked back at me, though, of course, I knew
it could not look, only reflect my looking – and yet,

with its blank earnestness, perhaps enlivened
by almost imperceptible shifts of light and shadow,
it looked at me – perhaps enlivened further
by the way an expression changes from sheer
persistence, glance becoming stare becoming
a sinister blankness, a concealed leer; and, having caught
a few TV minutes of a "Chuckie" movie (in which
an evil doll leaps on people and strangles them),
I was suddenly disinclined to let the doll
out of my sight, to turn my back on her...it.

So, feeling foolish, I DID turn my back.
Nothing happened, except that the sense of a living presence
behind my back grew stronger. And ever since,
if I look at that doll, I can, with a thought
as simple and as powerful as pity for a dying pet
or love of an old easy chair or of a woman
I've just seen across the room at a party or
fear when waking up to a fan's shadows
spinning across the ceiling – that quickly
I can make that doll live for me.

And if I began, like a child, to talk to her,
give her a name, stroke her hair, begin to hear
her replying to my words, then to my thoughts...?
She'd be alive for me. And if she became alive
for others, if those who visited me spoke to her,
paid her courteous attentions – at first just
humoring me, but we all love pets, mascots,
good old Raggedy Ann...

Note: Pursuing the theme of the previous poem (how easily thought endows life), I approach the question: When a child's doll is alive for her to the extent that she weeps for its fancied(?) sufferings, is the doll alive? As alive for her as she considers it alive for her? If we all considered it alive, would it become alive? Would it, for example, speak to us? Would words on a page? (Which, since the page is from wood pulp, mostly, is like saying "Would wood?") [If we loved the page enough; that is, if wooed, wood would.]

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