Strange Sundays: Poetry That Surprises

Strange Sundays: Poems that surprise. “Touring the Doll Hospital”

Touring the Doll Hospital

Touring the Doll Hostpial

By Amy Gerstler

Why so many senseless injuries? This one’s glass teeth

knocked out. Eyes missing, or stuck open or closed.

Limbs torn away. Sawdust dribbles onto the floor

like an hourglass running out. Fingerless hands, noses

chipped or bitten off. Many are bald or burnt. Some,

we learn, are victims of torture or amateur surgery.

Do dolls invite abuse, with their dent-able heads,

those tight little painted-on or stitched-in grins?

Hurt me, big botched being, they whine in a dialect

only puritans and the frequently punished can hear.

It’s what I was born for. I know my tiny white pantaloons

and sheer underskirts incite violation. Criers and crib-

wetters pursue us in dreams, till we wake sweat-

drenched but unrepentant, glad to have the order

by which we lord over them restored. Small soldiers

with no Geneva Conventions to protect them,

they endure gnawing, being drooled on, banishment

to attics. Stained by cough syrup, hot cocoa, and pee,

these “clean gallant souls” wear their wounds as martyrs’

garments. We owe them everything. How they suffer

for our sins, “splintered, bursted, crumbled . . .”

Every bed in the head replacement ward is occupied tonight.

Let’s sit by the legless Queen doll’s tiny wheelchair

and read to her awhile if she wishes it. In a faint

voice she requests a thimbleful of strong dark tea.

“Touring the Doll Hospital” from Ghost Girl by Amy Gerstler, copyright © 2004 by Amy Gerstler. Published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Source: Ghost Girl (2004)

In an effort to share more modern poetry with the world, I am attempting to share one poem every Sunday (usually with a strange/dark/offbeat spin, in honor of the journals I edit), to my blog here. If you are interested in being featured, message me via my Twitter @LeNoirBleu. The poem should already be published, with the copyright reverted back to you, and should be at least one year since the original publication date.


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