“Scherzo di Folia” (1863-66) by Pierre-Louis Pierson; gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

O sister on the other side
of the mirror, all sass and vinegar.  
Galaxy of lace and petticoats 
and pretty things swept under 
the radar.  You are a vintage 
ditty, hiding some unhinged woman—
All of her broken intent snapped into 
our mother’s satin purse.  Imagine a word 
before it was born—yolk of doc. 
Imagine musical notes on a staff 
being crushed into a pile of dirt.  
Your head is a lunch counter, 
too many mouths talking at once.  
Here’s the thing, you can be eaten 
alive by anything. The record player 
skipped and became a bitter crucible 
with a trap door.  And how it finds 
the noise of your pain, making
such a racket in the heavily guarded
trenches.  A beast with no eyes, 
behind the drapes. Yes, fear is capable 
of any crime.  Like the surprise party 
you never showed up for. All the guests 
lost their way. Sleeping Beauty was also 
blacklisted, hiding it under her pillow
for safe-keeping–From a prince who 
might hijack something unholy 
from our bed.  The most tender 
engines whistling to the wind. 
You could rant, you could start
a war.   But your doubt stands in 
its own way, invisible player piano,
in a dank bar, with the spotlight on
the singer in your tired heart.  
Once, a boy stuck bubble gum 
in your hair, how sticky those scars–
how much vandalism they bear.
How does this little doll know 
exactly where to go?— Into the grittiest
neighborhoods where lowly hoodlums 
count the jewels into your sorrow.

Cynthia Atkins is the author of Psyche's Weathers, In The Event of Full Disclosure, and the forthcoming Still-Life With God. Her poems are also forthcoming in Cleaver Magazine, Los Angeles Review, and Rust+Moth.
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