Poetry

In the Dollhouse

By Hollie Dugas

August 2022

Inside the dollhouse I play human,

prop the tiny woman in a brown floral

dress against the fragmented rectangle

of window light. Inside the dollhouse,

it’s intimate as a minefield. Inside

the dollhouse, linoleum flowers burst

alongside the tiny man who is passed-

out drunk in the kitchen again,

intoxicated with the pleasure and woe

of real-life—the woman gently treading

around his resting body preparing lunch.

My mother can’t cook a lick. It was

my father who primed her for cooking.

I wonder if that’s what lasting is about:

priming. The small woman lives in this

house with her forever-husband, barely

stirring. The two appear almost identical

in their soft tan attire. And I don’t

understand who does what or why

but when they dance in the dusky living

area, the old woman leads. I am seven

and already confused about gender

roles. I am confused about forever too.

I retreat into the three-sided kitchen,

fry a miniscule egg to rub over

my little mouth. I don’t eat. Can’t—

this internal world is hushed and dull

in contrast to my father who I can

see through the miniature window.

He gives off the impression of

complete satisfaction—even spent

on the floor, he looks full, content,

celestial even, like he’s finally eaten

the monster that lives in my closet.

And I want to burn this little forever-

house down, take the small sponge

pillow from the bed and toss it in

the heated stove, play in the giant

phantasmic sandbox where my father

plays.

Mother, may I borrow a match.

Mother, may I never be a person

who has a life that opens

behind me, exposes itself

for an entire world to observe

and label. Mother, may

I move out of this trivial shadow

box; I do not care to live

customary life, wear flowered

dresses, spend my time

transitioning from room to room,

shining bronze doorknobs, and

pontificating light and

the miniature pieces of religious

art on the paneled wall. I want to

exist in the beyond, where

the earth is perpetually moving

past me—and I never moving

past it. How else will I learn

beauty, the kind my father

embodies without effort? I open

the undersized door at the front

of the lesser wooden home

and watch my father’s chest

expand perfectly with air.

He’s alive—my mother is trying

to pull him up from the floor.

And I never want to be like her,

or any woman—they are always

holding something heavy.

Mother, may I break these walls,

lead my punch-drunk body down

the porch steps and discover

the severity of freedom, cough up

blood in dark alleys. Mother, may I

explore the geography of wanting;

be magnanimous, tip my fedora

in the direction of folly,

carry with me the stench of life.  

Dugas Authors Photo.jpg
Hollie Dugas
New Mexico, USA

Hollie Dugas lives in New Mexico. Her work has been selected to be
included in
Barrow Street, Reed Magazine, Crab Creek Review, Redivider, Porter House Review, Pembroke, Salamander, Poet Lore, Watershed Review, Mud Season Review, Little Patuxent Review, The Penn Review, Chiron Review,
Louisiana Literature
, and CALYX. Hollie has been a finalist twice for the
Peseroff Prize at
Breakwater Review, Greg Grummer Poetry Prize at PhoebeFugue’s Annual Contest, and has received Honorable Mention in Broad River Review. Additionally, “A Woman’s Confession #5,162” was selected as the winner of Western Humanities Review Mountain West Writers’ Contest (2017).
Recently, Hollie has been nominated for a 2020 Pushcart Prize and for
inclusion in
Best New Poets 2021. She is currently a member on the
editorial board for Off the Coast.