Everything happened around I was five
everything came to the boil
the house like a beehive
first I got ill, was hospitalised
then a new brother arrived.
me dreaming a sister -
not to pull hair, as some thought,
but play with her dolls.
(Back then a doll was taboo for a boy -
well, it was if you lived with your gran.)
Then when it had all settled down -
a year or two maybe -
I saw this mad doll. In a world of her own.
A whole Doll's Hospital window
all to herself. Rescued, she'd been,
from a fire, I think.
Her rib cage smashed. And hands and feet.
But I couldn't forget her face.
Older than me, Danny, my friend,
explained it: a leer. (He knew
about leers from his dad.)
How could she leer?
And why was she leering at me?
I saw it at night. And by day,
if I closed my eyes, it was there.
I must have talked about her
'till my friend went nuts.
Built an imaginary friend round her.
Perhaps he'd had enough.
That's maybe why he turned up
with a rival. A replacement doll.
Thrown out by his sister.
Smashed hands and feet. And broken cheek.
Not smashed quite in the way the first had been,
but near as I would get.
(Was he the doll's assailant?)
Alas, she did not leer
but worth the horse-drawn hearse and conker.
She almost measured up.
Enough for me to swap them gladly.
She'll leer, said Danny. Give her time.
She'll pass it on. All that
was done to her, she'll do to you.
She weaves thought webs
to trap her prey, he said. The strands
come from her eyes. (He'd heard
of women doing things like that to men.)
Her web began to form around my fear -
and yes, at times I caught a leer.
No way, though, would I part with her,
for fear wove webs of strong desire.
Yet after I had dropped dad's hammer on my toe,
come off my bicycle and grazed both hands,
and met with other bumps and bruises,
I did begin to wonder: was he right?
I never did discover
what sort of spirit was she.
Good or bad?
Or simply badly treated?
But for a year, maybe,
she had this hold on me.
Her damaged hands
more powerful than a wand could be.
Her spells more difficult to understand
than ancient abracadabra.
We hid her in the coal shed
so I could not well complain
that there were times her magic came out black.
But there were spells of purest white.
The night the lightning struck the weeping willow tree.
Two willow trees there were.
The one that was our camp.
And the one that was the enemy's.
Her face was in the lightning flash -
and so our rivals' camp was struck.
I am entering this poem for the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads Friday Challenge.
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