The Dolls

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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