Sunday, May 20, 2007

Poetry Monday: Joan McMillan

I met Joan in the MFA program at San Jose State. Every poem she brought to workshop took my breath away. That is why I selected her for Poetry Monday. Here is one of her poems which first appeared in the Blue Mesa Review:

The Doll

On Christmas, a few months after my sister's abortion,
my mother gave her a Madame Alexander doll
the size and weight of a newborn, wearing a gown and bonnet
of textured pink satin trimmed with Irish lace.

In my mother's mind, soaked like a spongecake with liquor,
everything had its replacement:
if a single plate from her Desert Rose dish set
dropped and shattered, the next day she bought another one
at the Franciscan Ware shop in Glendale,

so, after my sister came home from the doctor,
my mother drove to a toy store and purchased the doll.
It lay swaddled in tissue on the top shelf of her closet
next to her silver makeup case from the 1940's
gleaming in the fragrant dark.

I imagine how my mother smoked a cigarette
alone in the living room the night after Christmas,
all the lamps extinguished, the tree glowing with starry lights,
flicking her cigarette-ash into an ashtray and remembering
the moment she had been waiting for, when my sister
cut the silky white ribbons and lifted the doll from its box,
its glass eyes clicking open as it made a faint, mechanical cry.

* * * *

Joan McMillan received her MFA in Creative Writing from San Jose State University. Her work has appeared most recently in White Pelican Review and Oyez Review, and has also appeared in Poetry, Quarry West, Chattahoochee Review, ONTHEBUS, and elsewhere.
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