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Vievee Francis

Vievee Francis

Vievee Francis is the author of Blue-Tail Fly (Wayne State University Press, 2006), Horse in the Dark (Northwestern University Press, 2012), and Forest Primeval (Northwestern University Press, 2016), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry. She is an associate professor at Dartmouth College and an associate editor for Callaloo.

Dolls, Alices, Rabbit Holes and Such

My dolls were just that—

                       dolls.
 
To think—those eight blond heads
 
(four on either side) might protect
 
me. The night terror after night

terror that presaged later terrors

(equally dark) would not be stopped

by their hard-bobbled plastic heads,
 
those chewed pink scalps. 
 
Why would they
 
save my body? Animate, and soft,

brown as it was. They didn't love me.

          I loved them.
 
I brushed their hair (and they expected
 
me to). I rubbed their legs between mine 
 
but only I came. They were pretend
 
but I never pretended. And I didn't

know. I privileged them, and served them
 
tea (and cookies when I could sneak them
 
into my bedroom which my mother 
 
insisted I keep clean and crumb free).
 
I was crumbling and my dolls did not 
 
stop it. They sat up straight on the pillows
 
waiting, while I held vanilla wafers to their mouths.
 
I left their hair all over the bathroom floor

when I coifed them—like a good little beautician. 
 

 
Cotton candy. The old woman near Asheville
 
that touched my hair at the café said

that, and I obliged, said, Yeah, more cotton
 
than wool.
 Then immediately returned to the flaxen

hair of my dolls that I washed and cut
 
with my tiny fingers while I waited for my breasts to grow
 
conical and my own hair to be straightened down. 

          I'm         losing

I've    lost

the thread of my recollections, so you probably can't
 
follow me. Where was I?  Rabbit holes. Yes,

there were so many back there

in my upper West Texas childhood. In my personal

bottom. And so many Alices. Alices  everywhereeverywhere.

So popular. One year there was a rabbit infestation.
 
Did I tell you how many girls followed them downdowndown?
 
I'm repeating myself. I was a Vievee but  but I wanted a rabbit too—

 a fluffy white one with a pocket-watch.
 
But these were wild hares, some rabid—

tens of thousands of them with their long ears and rangy bodies.
 
No one cared what hole I fell down. I looked under the bed
 
every night. So scared. And held my dolls close. Squeezing them

into my ribs (like a momma) as if

they could ward off whatever came for me.

And when it did they were nowhere to be found.

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