new zealand electronic poetry centre


Elizabeth Smither

online works


Dolls’ house

Chaos indoors and out
though surfaces are cleaned –
the sink bench, the garden leaves
raked, and only one or two besmear

the endless efforts of staying here.
‘I enjoy breathing’ an aged rock star
says and hushed reverent applause.
Why didn’t we think of that, make

a song out of it and a dance?
But on your dresser, a cleared space
allows the large dolls’ house to poise
now you’ve assembled it, with screws

and instructions. The hinged front
complete with comprehensive door
opens out onto the stage you’ve chosen
to create, detail by detail, this winter.

Your double bed, single-occupied, lies
behind, slightly rumpled, with cushions
at the head, a stuffed toy or two
but the dolls’ house’s rooms are empty

and pristine as only emptiness can do.
Hell is other dolls, J-P Sartre said
and if you want to keep a situation clear
banish every living soul, let furniture

speak for itself and occupancy as well.
For someone – doll-size – is surely coming here
tonight or after a fabled holiday
to proceed up the stairs to bed

or rest, feet on a footstool, in the drawing room.
And the miracle is, several at once
partake of the elegance, the form
you’ve set for them. The little table

with beautifully-folded tiny napkins
the wingback chair for someone male
the antimacassars for a greasy head
the nursery where the toys are stored

as light fades in the little panes,
the kitchen where a gentle reprimand
may occur until stirring begins again.
Instead in front of it with you, quite

consumed by its beauty and order, its grace
assembled out of scraps and rags
and translated to a living stage, I breathe
if only I were small enough, were small.



©Elizabeth Smither 2004

Last updated 11 May 2001