My aunt bought me
a Tiny Tears.
And perhaps my doll Patty.
She bought my sister’s
boy doll Dickie
maybe her clown doll too.
She wandered house to house
bearing gifts,
most of the time without
a house of her own.
Except with the occasional
husband who did.
I do not know how she survived
or what made her life as it was.
The only girl,
something she took pride in,
who kept her clothes in moth balls.
Her fancy hankies she knew
how to fold in a lacy fluff
that bloomed from her waitress pocket.
Her fur coat.
She pinched her naturally curly hair
in metal clips,
that left immovable waves.
And tried the same with my
board-straight hair,
but failed – I think
because I rubbed my hands
across it to test the miracle.
She always liked the little kids,
the ones whose love
she could still coerce.
She had a creative streak,
I think she was the first
to make a bird feeder
from an empty bottle of bleach.
She taught my sister how to sew.
They said they were alike.
And made a dress for me
from scraps, though I said
I’d have no such thing.
I wore it like a queen,
amazed how on earth it came to be.
Purple and white organdy,
with a big bow that tied
in back.
She was the only one who asked
what I wanted to be
when I grew up
and did not laugh when I said an artist,
but praised the one profile
I could draw, long curly
lashes and bulging lips.
I wish the praise had come
from someone with a bed
to sleep in.
I think the thing that made
my father’s scowl
is what made her life too,
and drove her to give it away
for love,
because she herself did not
get to be an artist and give it
to that.