There are city-wide blackouts

in the recesses of my brain.

I pedal down the alleys

the dirty wash buckets

thrown out the open windows

above in the low-income housing projects.

These alleys are crowded and huddled

and would seem to be fictional labyrinth

were it not for the telephone wires

connecting overhead, a proof and relief.

A man at a crate, wearing denim overalls and

a red bandana, smiles his drunken grin at me

and scratches his bulbous purple nose, whisking

out a tissue from a bony fist.

He is a hint of someone I remember–someone

watching tiny birds; there is torn leather chair, Old Style beer cans,

a tractor pulling a wagon, a lilac scent

scratched with yeast and rusted nails. This,

I remember, is Pa, his gin-blossom

pressed into the dirty kitchen window

at the farmhouse, watching his hummingbirds

as running grandchildren and his sons

populate the yard.


A Parisian-like corner where some of the alleys meet,

a flower market in barrels and palette displays,

chalk-board prices, plump women in purple fuddled dresses.

This is where I come to remember

how I once loved purple lipstick and pretty things

and how I sang to my great aunts in a big city for quarters.

I choose one of the alleys and pedal my way down.

Their smiles filling me with a comfort-

all those plump, soft, lavender-scented women related

to my grandmother, telling me I sang so beautifully.

“Beautiful” is sort of a stop sign around here, or warning.

The alley comes to a dark end once the word

“beautiful” is ringing in my brain, and I see

the alley is now entirely

blocked by a concrete wall.

I turn my bike away, back toward the brighter

center where the alleys meet, choosing, with “beautiful”

still hanging onto my memory like a stale cigarette,

like a yellow-colored flu stain, to go south.


Southeast–cobblestone and rain puddles, I

see the clouds in their reflections. This alley is


I want to turn but the walls on the side

are narrowing in,

my thighs just scuffing the plaster of the walls.

I look forward and it goes on and on

to light then dark, light,

then dark, where unnamed streets cross

but I cannot get to them.

A cracked hand reaches out a glassless

window, and the cold porcelain knocks against my

knuckle. I am picking up speed but I look to see

what it was, and when I face forward,

wobbling, another white porcelain thing—

this one is a doll’s face, white and cracked,

somewhat glued back together. Her

head has holes in it where the doll hair used to

be, and fear fills me as I roll closer, backing on

the pedals,

“beautiful,” she half whispers.

I am in the hallow,

I am in the hallow,

my waking nightmares

and memories–her white face shatters into mirrors

and shoots shards into my entire body. But I have

to get away. I pluck out the glass, all this blood, and

keep going. I know her. I know her.


I break out into blinding white light,

all is soft, the blood has clotted,

and I see what must be

the exit.  Or is it entrance? I am looking for.


I cannot tell but as I pass beneath the linens

hanging overhead across lines strung window

to window, I smell, first, mashed potatoes,

a woman scrapes dirty Blue China Plates

under cool water, and then–sweat—but a sweat a know well.

A young-looking lean man in his mid-forties

crosses his long-legged jeans at the cowboy boots.

His cowboy hat is tipped over to shade large blue-green eyes, asleep

in the shade. I know his chin because it looks like mine. A dimple.

A box of band aids is kicked over, and there’s the humming sound—

the birds—flitting and darting and singing.

I start to bandage my fingers but

I am now on an old red tricycle and I am suddenly

the one in overalls, Pa watching me pedal about in the dirt driveway

through the window above the lilac bush,

sipping his Old Style as my father cracks open his in

the driveway, and I pedal up to him.

It is all a dream, I know, but this is the part I have come for,

the part I seek every time I face my reflection–

and that doesn’t matter now. Because I pedal up to him,

parking my front tire against his cowboy boots,


“daddy, someone will save us, right?”

He kisses my cheek, hands me my doll,

and I abandon the tricycle, running

for the lilac bushes’ protection near the


I take out the pocketknife and gouge

at my doll’s pretty eyes so she can’t see.

I saw at her hair until a small blond pile

is at my feet–a pleasure fills me as I take her beauty.

I cut at her mouth as my power takes her voice.


To be a doll, to be a doll–I thought it was that easy, that wish.



5 thoughts on “Reflections

  1. Harrows that hallow: why else do we dream? History become mysteries of the sublime inner, dreaming us. “I pluck out the glass, all this blood, and / keep going.” Like Dante, wrapped in rapt verses. Dolls are like masks — through the eyeholes a pure divinity stares, behind the dead, mad, wild, torn veil of childhood. Finding it in one’s voice is what hallows the harrowing. Great stuff, Amy.

    Liked by 1 person


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