The Worry Dolls
I’ve been told I was coaxed to life—jolted, shocked, pumped. Some days, I remember the muted glare of hospital light, tubes, and wires. Other days, I hear the whisper of nurses’ feet as if they’re just in the other room. Stories of my birth lurk in every corner of the house until they become tangled with my own memories. Night after night, my mother slept next to me. Me, her half-formed baby glinting in the incubator. Let God take her, the Baptist doctor advised. No, my mother snapped. Me, her half-formed baby. Undo me, unwish me, unmake me. My mother dragged me to the physical therapist, the speech therapist, and the internist. She read about neck braces, wire braces—anything to make me stronger, stand up taller. But me, I wanted to be a jellyfish—to move gelatinously and softly, only a fine membrane for skin. My body, a buoyant transparent bell, perpetually ringing. Can’t you hear I’m singing? To float and glow electric against the blue. This is what I dreamed of when I couldn’t sleep. My mother slid worry dolls under my pillow where they hardened and turned brittle. Were they for me? For her? Impossible to tell. Some days, I broke their limbs, other days I cradled them.
Shannon K. Winston’s poems have appeared in Crab Creek Review, The Night Heron Barks, RHINO, Rust + Moth, and elsewhere. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and several times for the Best of the Net. Her poetry collection, The Girl Who Talked to Paintings, was published recently by Glass Lyre Press. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey with her partner and two dogs.