I am a doll of ivory bisque.
I was a girl, but was too bold.
To preen in silks, I dared to risk
the open sleigh. I don’t grow old.
A girl of flesh who died of cold.
I froze while riding to the ball,
to end in ice and snowy pearls.
I thawed in kilns, a molded doll,
a pocket vanitas for girls.
My cheeks are flushed. I died of cold.
I float now in a child’s bath,
my little mistress pushes me,
from rim to rim, or to her mouth.
They’ve taken all my finery.
A doll’s not flesh. I don’t get cold.
I’m safe for play—no moving parts.
My price is small. I’m bought and sold.
I fortify their frozen hearts.
I’m getting warmer now—it’s told
on mountain roads. I died of cold.
Previous appearances in Measure (US), Ambit (U.K.) and in Terrapin Press’s anthology, The Doll Collection (2016).
Author’s Note: A “Frozen Charlotte” was a widely popular 19th-century doll depicting a frozen corpse. The Frozen Charlottes recalled several ballads, known throughout America and Canada, about a young woman who froze to death on the way to a county ball. The popularity of the ballads and the dolls marks the deep resonance the story had for North Americans.