APRIL 18, 2012 12:36AM

The Bride (a poem)

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Beyond the mist of netting
White satin glowing
Lustrous hair, rosebud lips.
She took my breath.
Her eyes the best.
Not vacant, but purple blue
Lids thick-lashed and closeable
According to her posture.
Three feet at least
The star of all dolls
Past and future.

I can’t remember who’d blessed me
With such a gift.
Some relative or other.
But my mother
In a no-questions voice decreed,
“You must put her away.
You’re too young to play”
Apparently with such pristine perfection.
“You can use her some day
For a decoration, say,
For on your bed when you are older.”

Never had a heart sunk so low so fast.
Aghast and stunned.
Perhaps my mother
Couldn’t forget
How once that little spoiler, Irene,
From across the street
Older, and pushier and jealous (no doubt)
Took the chestnut braids out
Of a Christmas doll, adorable,
The tight perfect ropes

My mother, so generous and kind,
When I toed the line,
Which I usually did,
At least when I could see it.
No explanations necessary for me,
Her sureness the authority of God’s.
Here, she’d affronted my little girl’s heart
To overprotect a doll’s cleanliness?
I could not her motivations fathom
Yet warily sensed more at bottom

So up she went
On my closet shelf
In her cardboard coffin.
The lovely lashed lids
Closed for decades.
I sneaked her down on occasion
For a glimpse at her beauty
But never for long.
Mother’s law too strong.
There she’d stay,
My own little version
Of Dorian Gray.
(Or Mother’s?)
The boxed girl-bride inside
Not to be defiled,
Unlived and unloved,
Forever and ever.

Such pristine pureness
Turned compost
For a daughter’s self-estrangement.
The most deadly messages
Come in unchallenged gestures
Having decades to quietly erode,
Or at least with mixed messages overload
A girl’s struggling psyche.

It became clearer to me
A mother seemingly so reasonable
Saw my growth as highly treasonable.
Daughterhood the major role to which I was born
To help weather her marital storms.
(The factor of my sexuality dismissed with remarkable scorn).

My doll memory
Hadn’t made it to therapy
When shopping for a birthday gift
For my little niece in California
I watched my hand recoil
From a Barbie-like miniature.
Pretty, conveniently priced,
Yet bridally arrayed.
Not the goal
For a six year old
I told myself
And heard the echo of mother
As understanding I began to suffer.

Had I forgotten the right of exploration
Of a young girl’s heart?
Let the streams of life’s stimuli
Be allowed to flow naturally
Without our damming them
(or damning them).
Avoidance not the answer
For they’ll read our uptightness
All too easily.
They’ll see we are unable to separate
The misery from the mystery
And can’t grant them the chance.
Some legacy.
Abandoned by us (misguided and misguiding)
To the eventual cliff-fall
Of love, sex, marriage … whatever.

I bought the doll
For her, myself and my mother.

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PD James has a great line from one of her detective mysteries: "Childhood is a sentence that is never commuted." I seem to recall there were party shoes and party dresses on that top shelf that I was never allowed to wear.
""I bought the doll
For her, myself and my mother."

Wonderful! At that moment you outgrew the limitations placed on a little girl and became a true woman!

Great post, my friend. Great indeed!

Powerful and beautiful, Libby, and sad and wise.
Libby,remembering the child inside...it is odd how we olders forget that we were once childs.."Had I forgotten the right of exploration
Of a young girl’s heart?"So you bought the dolll and you did excellent as your writing here...A memento childhood this one.Rated with best regards.
ABSOLUTELY wonderful to see this other side of Libby - YOU, my dear friend are far more talented than Your modest, self-effacing self is willing to accept.

Painful, artful and as Chicken Maaan said, wise. You were able to overcome past hurts by the simple act of purchasing the doll for your niece. You transcended your pain, libby. What a gifted poet you are!
"...And heard the echo of mother
As understanding I began to suffer..."
Great post...
Oh....bride dolls. They were the best. Untouchable....angels on a shelf or in a box. We couldn't play with them. Just touch the lace. Carefully.
Thank you for this wonderful memory. Beautifully written.
you are a lovely sweet sensitive intouchwithherself person Libby and you did the right thing - it is our duty as we grow up to not forget the child, and it is the right thing to do to right somethings for that child that were wrong when that child was small and helpless as we grow older and have the power to do so. That child waits for us to remember her when we are older. Loved this post, love your heart,
and a hug for you.
Second comment...second reading. Exquisite writing.
Stuart, thanks. Really appreciate the PD James' quote. Self-denial and restraint major lessons from mothers especially in our mothers' generation. I have read so much of Alice Miller who explains all dysfunction as stemming from trauma that remains unprocessed from childhood. The brighter the child she claims the more enmeshed in the crazymaking the child gets.

sky, thanks so much for acknowledging that sad and important breakthru and the determination it inspired! :)

chicken maaan, thanks so much for that. this poem is personally rawer than most I have written. so grateful it communicates as well as it has to my sensitive and supportive and gifted fellow writing peers/friends on os.

Stathi, yes, it is important to recall and appreciate the vulnerability of our younger selves and how precious and innocent we were, and how much we had to cope with. Sometimes over-trusting and lost in confusion ("fusion with") with wounded parents who tried to protect themselves by discouraging our full out embracing of experience.

mark, thank you! it feels good to pour out some feeling from my personal political/emotional history, a break from the many deserving political fronts we feel so compelled to address these days. I would like to share more of these more personal writings, too, here at os and the reception to this poem from friends like you will help me with that courage.

Erica, thanks for your validation of me as a struggling daughter and a writer. Your experience and wisdom in both areas makes that high praise, my friend! Thanks for role-modeling courage in self-disclosure and honest and powerful communication.

thanks, jmac! one of those poems in which a kernel of memory carried me to a powerful epiphany.

ande, thanks so much for both your visits! appreciate the resonance of the bride dolls, or the dolls too nice to be played with. Yes, indeed, "angels on a shelf" which I never heard of. Though my mother's insistence this doll not even get to decorate my room but be closeted away like that was especially confounding to me.

rolling, what a wonderful and profound and generous comment. I thank you for such appreciation. I sometimes speak of my inner child down deep inside of me banging on the pipes still, trying to be heard and her needs heeded. sometimes growing up we are so overwhelmed by the clamoring inner children of others, especially at times our parents and significant others, and their needs we ignore our own inner child inside. :) You are speaking my language about the "inner child", my friend. A concept since I first heard it I have appreciated. To sort out how our belief systems and training to be so painfully perfectionistic and as Stathi brought up this week shaming to ourselves all got set up. We need to keep it all "green" as they say. Respecting the openness to experience and truth we had as children that suffers opportunities for desensitization as we age. :)

best, libby
This is very rich and I love the ending. Especially like the part about growth as treasonable.