I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.
When I was a kid, I felt guilty about having favorite stuffed animals or dolls. I’d line them all up on my bed and put some of them in the back and some of them in the front. Inevitably the new ones would go in the front and the older ones in the back, or the ones that weren’t very soft would go in the back and the fluffiest, pretty ones would go in the front.
Even then, I knew this was wrong. It felt just like the hierarchy at kindergarten and elementary school, the prettiest ones getting the most attention, the ones that were rougher around the edges being put in the back row. When I’d fall asleep, I was sure to say good night to all of them, and some days I’d switch them all round so no one got their feelings hurt.
That’s the thing about dolls and stuffed animals, they become alive to us. They are a proxy for a human being. A small mirror of ourselves. That’s why we can also find them scary or off-putting. They are important symbols. When we find a doll that looks like us, it becomes even more important, or when we can’t find a doll that looks like us, the absence can feel enormous.
I remember so well, sitting in bed in the dark of the night trying to be fair with my love and somehow knowing it was impossible. Even as a child, I was aware that what I was feeling was something I was going to have to feel for the rest of my life.
One of the reasons I love today’s poem is that it takes the familiar relationship of human and doll and flips it on its head. The poem asks what it would be like to be a doll, to be made and controlled by the hands at the doll factory.
by moonheart (formerly known as kim mayo)
two cold hands picked me up, packed ounces of cotton up the slit in my back, popped my plastic legs in place, and left me there a moment undone, armless, my new legs split open, one pointed north, one pointed south i was nimble as my maker’s hands thumbing each eye into its rightful socket, my gaze blank as the ground above my twice-great grandmother’s grave. they could make us anything, i thought, as me and my sisters lay nose-down on the factory table, searching for any shallow breath as our makers twisted our necks straight, flushed upon our vinyl half-smiles with paint, grabbed our right arm from the line, then our left, popped them in, threw us back in the bin at their shift’s end. we were all just black for a moment— the stuffed animals of our chests still naked, heaving against each other in the bite of the factory night’s cold, keeping each other warm as we could there before tomorrow, where we’d be lined up shoulder-to-shoulder, snooped and pricked in search of defect, branded at the nape of our necks when they found none (Pleasant Company) all unaware of the name they’ll give us in the next room, the pink dress, the work boots, the bonnet, the gourd.
"addy" by moonheart (formerly known as kim mayo). Used by permission of the poet.