The Paper Dolls

Juliet Cook

The paper dolls gave me this dream. A frozen wedding cake the next year. A deep
freezer-burned slab with ruffles & swirls. Some hard little kernels to swallow.
Some hard little kernels to lodge in the corners of teary eyes. Obstructed ducts
may require this poultice: measure raw kernels of rice and lavender buds
into a small silk bag. Concentrate on ribbon ties. Concentrate on words
like desire and flexuous. Concentrate on cake freshly baked. Don't feel sorry
for the paper dolls trapped inside that sorry piñata. Loosen your velvet ribbon,
beat the papier-mâché, let their bodies spill forth and float. Wherever they land,
bury them beneath kernels and buds. If they have linked hands, use sewing scissors.
If they try to elicit your sympathies by bleeding, recognize this as part of the dream.
Realize that cake crumbs are thicker than blood. The surface of paper can be changed.


The paper dolls are shuffling
like self-possessed playing cards.
The paper dolls are shuffling
like other-possessed paper zombies.
They are dipping into skim milk,
then spreading violet-scented talc
to disguise their off-color aromas.

Yes, they are disintegrating.
Yes, they are reanimating—
forcing themselves through mesh;
emerging new strains in the basin.
The paper dolls are insinuating
fictive little personhoods;
tiny grappling hooks into flesh.

They are mucking up my surface.
If I'm the cratered moon on a dark night,
then they are wearing murky gray
astronaut suits sown from owl pellets.
Having already rummaged through
my wastepaper basket, their gluey tongues
are licking my tights into quivering tripe.

They want me to blubber; then they want to
disappear into my folds, so they can't be folded
into scraplings of see-through rice paper. Mere
kernels. I've tried to tell them they are obsolete
love letters. oooooooo o o o o o o  o  o  o o   o    O   O   O
P.S. A thin gruel of blood is drooling out of one
paper doll's mouth piece.  Please RSVP.


The paper dolls cakelike, too many eggs, high altitude baking instructions and I'm feeling sorry
again. How could I have fallen for this feigned blood sisterhood. How could I have fallen
for this cold compress. Due to contractions, contradictions, contraindications, I don't wish
to say thank you for the envelope that contained a prescription, but I will say thank you for
the envelope that contained a light blue rectangle, which may or may not be a piece of sky.
I can almost see the ghostly outline of another paper doll floating by, which is not meant to
insinuate angelhood. I wish she was a paper-thin, girl-shaped hot air balloon, bearing my heart
in her flame-powered basket. Carrying my heart up, steamy contraband to next destination.

Juliet Cook's poetry has appeared in Diagram, Diode, WOMB, and many more online and print sources. She is editor and publisher of Blood Pudding Press. She is the author of numerous chapbooks, most recently including MONDO CRAMPO (dusie kollektiv 3), PINK LEOTARD & SHOCK COLLAR (Spooky Girlfriend Press), and Tongue Like a Stinger (Wheelhouse). Her first full-length poetry collection, 'Horrific Confection' was published by BlazeVOX. For more information, please feel free to visit her website at