In the Dollhouse
By Hollie Dugas
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
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.
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 Phoebe, Fugue’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.