The Dolls

By John Ciardi 1916–1986 John Ciardi
Night after night forever the dolls lay stiff
by the children’s dreams. On the goose-feathers of the rich,   
on the straw of the poor, on the gypsy ground—
wherever the children slept, dolls have been found   
in the subsoil of the small loves stirred again   
by the Finders After Everything. Down lay
the children by their hanks and twists. Night after night   
grew over imagination. The fuzzies shed, the bright   
buttons fell out of the heads, arms ripped, and down   
through goose-feathers, straw; and the gypsy ground   
the dolls sank, and some—the fuzziest and most loved
changed back to string and dust, and the dust moved   
dream-puffs round the Finders’ boots as they dug,   
sieved, brushed, and came on a little clay dog,
and a little stone man, and a little bone girl, that had kept   
their eyes wide open forever, while all the children slept.

John Ciardi, “The Dolls” from In the Stoneworks (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1961). Used with the permission of the Ciardi Family Publishing Trust.

Source: The Collected Poems of John Ciardi (University of Arkansas Press, 1997)

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Poet John Ciardi 1916–1986

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 John  Ciardi

Biography

To millions of Americans, the late John Ciardi was "Mr. Poet, the one who has written, talked, taught, edited, translated, anthologized, criticized, and propelled poetry into a popular, lively art," according to Peter Comer of the Chicago Tribune. Although recognized primarily as a poet and critic, Ciardi's literary endeavors encompassed a vast range of material. From juvenile nonsense poetry to scholarly verse translations, . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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