Abigail Wells

paper dolls

a garland of paper dolls festoons the mantel
when i was a girl, i always wondered
why it looked as though they held
one another’s hands so tightly

but as i grew, i watched these paper dolls
taking shape of the women around me
clinging to one another as not to fall apart

we were taught to believe that
real women ought to be blank pieces of parchment
impressionable & pure––
lives dictated & interpreted by those who glance us over
stark white, naked as calla lily 

& so paper-thin
that when men get angry
they can crumple us into a ball
throw us across the bedroom
they lick their fingers, touch our edges
& we turn over for them

now here i am, almost twenty 
& nothing but small bits of confetti––
quite fun to toss around at first 
but a total mess to clean up after 
only when i am falling do they love the way i move

i should know better, yet i yearn––
to be protected from the rain like some fragile thing
to let men scrawl their run-on screaming into me
with heavy hands, to let their jet ink poison my blood–– 
let them tear me to shreds

all around me
generations of women believe
they exist merely as decoration
& so i look up at those paper dolls
hanging inches over the raging fire
& i empathize
because i understand 

About the Author: Abigail Wells, 19, was raised in Phoenix, Arizona but now lives in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee. She is a second-year student at Middle Tennessee State University, where she studies English literature & psychology. Wells began writing poetry in the fall of 2020. Soon after, she became a prose editor for Collage: A Journal of Creative Expression & started writing literary analysis articles for Idle Wave Media. Wells has been published multiple times in Collage, Off Center Magazine, & was a selected poetry winner representing MTSU for the 2020 Southern Literary Festival.