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An endless after-dinner speech

and I wait for a pause before returning to my seat.

A porcelain doll waits too. 

Her rusty-blue eyes fix on me. 

She smiles an immaculate sort of malice.

I don’t know her, but wonder how she died.

“I know your sister,” she says. “I worked with her …

professionally.” I name my sisters, but no and no 

and no. She grows impatient, snaps her name.

She leans close. I smell starvation on her breath, 

hear a mechanism, no-one could call a heart, thud.

“You see,” she says “I was her therapist.” 


A trap – steel crushes my ankles.

I know this race of people, I withdraw into history 

to find my sister, take her by the hand and run. 


We escape through tall grass in the back meadow,

through a field of dandelion clocks tick-tocking

beside the railway track. Down at the river

we hunker beneath the bridge,

laugh at this bold new adventure.

Too young to own a lexicon for our future,

we speak nursery rhymes half learned –

Needles and pins, 

needles and pins. 

When a doll comes to life,

your trouble begins!

She says she wants to go home

and I return to myself.


The speeches continue

but I have retreated so far 

I hear only faint resounds.

The living doll cannot reach me,                                                                            though her silence says, don’t get drunk

on any assumption you are accepted here. 


And I return to myself.

My sister says she wants to go home.

Your trouble begins

when a doll comes to life.

Needles and pins, 

needles and pins. 

We speak nursery rhymes half learned –

too young to own a lexicon for our future

we laugh at this bold new adventure.

We hunker beneath the bridge

beside the railway track. Down at the river

we run through a field of dandelion clocks tick-tocking,

to escape through tall grass in the back meadow.

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