Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Secrets in the Skirt Hems

I found another batch of my mom's old paper dolls!

Plus this little girl --
part Kewpie, part Betty Boop:

Thanks to my niece Amy for sharing this
existential children's book, celebrating
the enduring charm of childhood paper dolls:
About Donaldson & Cobb ~ Storytime Read Aloud

"We're not gone. Oh no no no!
We're holding hands and we won't let go. . . .
and the paper dolls flew
into the little girl's memory
where they found white mice and fireworks
and a starfish soap,
and a kind granny . . .
and more and more lovely things each day
and each year."


Not just for little ones, teens and even grown ups
love paper dolls too! As my friend Meg asks:
"What is it about them that draws me in?"

paper dolls (for darnell arnoult)

it is the joy of tomato sandwiches
the smell of jergens and jean nate
at thirteen
or our love still for grandmothers aunts
who enter rooms
largely sideways
hips broad enough
to use as sideboards
maybe it is the value
we place on duke’s mayonnaise
the sandwich spread for queens…

whatever wherever and for ever more
we are little girls
revisiting space
rebuilding houses
renaming mothers…

perhaps it is the secret
knotted inside the pleats of skirt hems

sewn along scarf edges
fringed secret whispers
that whisper a familiar smell…

whatever we become
stealing a moment
to cast word spells
undress our mothers
repaint their lips with anything red anything Italian
drench their heads with ancient clairol wisdom
anoint their hands with herstorical bronze
queen of the nile henna…

we reembrace
full petticoats
white linen skirts
sailor dresses
patent leather

for the pretty pirates
we will become…

perfumed necks
wrists adorned
in vintage memory
cut carefully
along the edges
of this madness
this magic…

we lie down
and wait for the moon
to trace us.
[emphasis added; ellipses in original]

by Jaki Shelton Green
from Breath of the Song: New and Selected Poems

My Mom's Glamour Dolls ~ 1930s

One of my favorites from the 1960s
A Birthday Present from My Sister Peg

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