Doll Things and Stars of Our Own Stories

Chatty Cathy
Chatty Cathy


Doll Things


Paper dolls cut from old catalogues

holding hands, their little dresses

uniforms on rounded, eyeless heads;

blue-eyed baby dolls with yellow curls,

tiny nail beds etched on rubber fingers

clutching hard plastic milk bottles

to rounded ruby lips forever open,

like guppies trolling their waters

feeding hungers never satisfied;

a Chatty Cathy, the pull of her string

asking for love, a kiss, a clean dress,

begging for a story or to play house;

Barbie and company:  dream kitchens,

makeup mirrors, and pink convertibles–

a ripped and dickless Ken sold separately,

his impotence a bonus in a doll’s world.

Icons of innocence –the playthings of girls

mimicking the million little eggs gifted at birth

tucked neatly inside matching bags

like pennies lying unspent in zippered pockets

waiting for a grown-up shopping spree

and an eye-popping point-of-sale display

selling its siren song of play in real-time.


Stars of Our Own Stories

Even in first grade when I was made

to wear a skirt and hair barrettes,

I was glad to be a girl despite

my teacher’s frown at scuffed Mary Janes

and dirtied lace on white cuffed socks

from playing Four Square at recess.

Worlds were still closed to girls then —

our adventures dared only in our minds

because of breasts and eggs,

blood and Mary the Mother of Jesus.

I played a good game of Four Square

but never expected to preach a sermon,

cure cancer, fight a fire, build Twin Towers,

hang out in locker rooms or sweat.

What was mine was at first comfortable enough:

dolls and cradles, dolls that cried for mama,

dolls with closets of clothes, makeup,

purple roadsters, and dream kitchens.

After school, I sat among them

writing their stories without a censor,

blocking their parts on a stage

that began to spin in psychedelic

colors as they learned their alphabet

and grew words of consciousness

that sizzled with power and crackled with fire,

at first fragile tendrils of possibilities

growing stronger in resistance

as aprons retired and bras burned

at sit-ins hosted by Annie Oakley and Barbie,

dolls keeping what they liked and taking what they wanted:

gilded barrettes and baseball caps,

tree houses with twisted rope ladders

and miniature houses with pink chintz furniture,

high heels and steel-toed boots,

beauty and respect, self-respect

creating beauty in the demand for equality,

a new idea of agency roaring

the politics of orgasm so loudly

the set cracked and the curtain crashed

burying disapproving teachers and fathers–

our standing O a reflection of power

emerging from the dirty shoes and sweat

that made us stars of our own stories.

By Janet Reed

Janet Reed teaches writing, literature, and theater at Crowder College, a community college in Missouri.  She is an old hippie who regularly hugs trees, takes in shelter animals, and wears Birkenstocks.  Her poetry was published in several journals in 2015, and more are promised in 2016.  She enjoys sharing her voice.

Chatty Cathy by Laura Brown

Laura Suzy Brown is a visual artist/image maker working in Brighton and London.


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