In the attic, I cut off my Ruthie doll’s blonde hair
to make her look more like me, to see
if her golden locks will grow back. She wheezes
when she breathes. I pick two broken crayons
from the floor and scribble on her left cheek
the blue-black of a bruise. She recoils, looks up,
blinks, burps, chokes, as if to ask, “Mama,
why are you doing this?” Her head is as big
as my father’s fist and feels just as solid.
The front of the pink princess dress she’s worn
since the day I got her is stained with dirt and torn.
The wooden beams that hold the ceiling creak
in a struggle to support our weight. Outside the window,
a songbird perches on a melting branch.
The clumps of curls might make a good nest.
I try to see what Ruthie thinks and notice
the emerald iris in her wide left eye is chipped.
When I rub it with my thumb, someone shouts from below.
Footsteps pound up stairs. Ruthie’s plastic body struggles
from my hands and crawls away, not even looking back
as the door behind us drops down, its ladder unraveling.

joe grillo

Joe Grillo is a senior at Southern Connecticut State University, where he serves as the fiction editor of the undergraduate literary magazine, Folio. He is currently working on a collection of poetry for his Honors Thesis.