Mara Bergman


After a collection of early C19 dollshouse dolls

Now more than ever I think it was fire
yet the butcher still brandishes his pick
and cleaver, wears his apron's collection of stains
down the middle. His hair, black and thick, enticed women
to run fingers through it, clasp his big meaty hand
to their bosoms. Under treasured pearl buttons
dark stitches jut like fish bones.

Was it Madame or was it her sister, one wearing purple
the other blue velvet? The daughter seemed likely,
her arms wooden and clumsy – miniature rolling pins, hinged
at the elbows – her sleeve ripped at the shoulder as if
someone had grabbed her blood-claret dress
which would never shimmer. The favoured aunt,
maybe? And what of the butler?

Did he fancy the maid in her Swiss-dotted dress
though her sweater was fraying? Or the maid in pink roses?
Surely the children saw everything – from first flirt
to courting to flames growing higher. Were they jealous
of their cousin, so much younger and sweeter,
in her favourite blue dress with the wide ruffled collar?
And was it the spaniel who toppled the candle

and sent the room spinning as fire ripped
through the curtains? Not one of their hairdos was mussed
in the mayhem, the dark waves remaining
flat on their heads. Now all is calm and, though roomless
and homeless, they rest in these nests of crisp tissue,
contented. Except for the maid in her red-spotted dress,
her arms outstretched, still raising the alarm.

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