Paper Doll

The woman practised control on paper dolls,
renditions of perfection in children seen
but not heard. She bound their chests
in liberty bodices attached with tabs,
displayed them in dioramas of salvaged boxes.
She wished they had more substance:
paper children fray with repeated bending.

She crafted a belly sling to incubate
a paper doll, rounded with a vernix of PVA.
But the gestation period was tiring,
and her nerves fretted to a doily.
So, specialists came with guillotines
to slice it out, breaking maternal rules
where folds and creases to all the work.

At first the arrangement worked well,
newly hatched dolls are highly tractable.
But the woman tired of trying
to dress her doll; its ribs rejected
her constrictions, there were no edges
for tabbed drawn dresses, and her creations
could only be viewed from one side.

The woman considered the doll a bad lot
but before consigning it to the recycling box
she unpeeled the doll-child’s mâché layers
and on the tissue of its translucent hide
inscribed a list
of do’s and don’ts
for it to live by.



Karen Downs Barton is a neurodiverse MA student compiling a pamphlet exploring her experiences as a Romany child in social care. @DownsBarton