Gillian Cummings

I tell myself, Fernande, quit your girly girl act. You know you want it like a woman. But in my chest is a child and in the child a doll, a porcelain doll I never owned. She is of two minds and each eye spies a sky would make the other shudder: red night for the princess locked like a lunatic in a ward of whores, white day neat as daisies for the witch who’d brew a slew of warts to speckle a bad trick’s balls. Either way, her hands fall off, broken at the wrists. Either way, a pimp pins her up as his puppet, and she flails her arms as if sweeping dead flies from the sky. I had a real doll and gave her to my sister. My sister planted her in the dirt. To grow more dolls. Now in my village, all the girls have tin eyes and bat their lashes at the belfry. Sometimes, I don’t want this. I don’t want bells to peal as if the soul’s a seduction. I don’t want rings of reverberation to snare my sister in her dreams. And yet girls will preen and strut. And spider cracks run. Quand la cloche sonne—

Gillian Cummings is the author of a chapbook, Spirits of the Humid Cloud, just released by dancing girl press. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Boulevard, Colorado Review, The Cream City Review, Denver Quarterly, The Laurel Review and other journals. She lives in White Plains, New York, where she sometimes teaches writing workshops at a hospital.