"She wears a pirate patch for a lazy eye"
Peppy the Poodle’s dark nails clatter
between the white carpet and white
satin plastic-covered couch.
In the kitchen, Barbie shows me how to sprinkle
paprika on a bowl of cottage cheese, savor it,
then quietly open the freezer loaded
with bars of chocolate-covered halva,
taking one for herself, one for me.
Her mother brings us with her to the salon—
acetone-heavy rows of metal hair dryers,
women in curlers chatting over the noise.
We stare as teased beehives rise, fidget
as elegant fingernails are buffed and painted.
Barbie is gangly, awkward. She wears
a pirate’s patch for a lazy eye. After work,
her father watches TV in the den, and we sing along
to the theme of Harrigan and Son,
H, A, double R, I, GAN spells…until her mother
shoos us away. On Barbie’s pink bedroom carpet,
it’s time for the wedding. We struggle with the snaps
on our white tulle Barbie bridal dresses, unpack the Kens.
And then, her father is in the doorway,
violaceous, bellowing, unbuckling
his belt. You are a god-awful girl!
Barbie knows what’s coming. She holds up
both arms for protection as he whips the belt
hard, back and forth. When he’s finished,
he leaves her sobbing on the rug. I try to stroke
her hair, but she pushes me away, doesn’t meet my eyes,
whispers we should start packing up—
the black-and-white striped bathing suits, the long
evening gowns and gloves, jumble of high heels
and purses. We cram skirts, blouses, dresses, jackets
into torn plastic-covered cardboard cases.
The phone rings, and we hear her mother
say to mine, Yes, the girls had a swell time!
Abby Caplin's poems have appeared in AGNI, Catamaran, I-70 Review, Midwest Quarterly, Moon City Review, Pennsylvania English, Salt Hill, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Southampton Review, Tikkun, and elsewhere. Among her awards, she has been a finalist for the Rash Award in Poetry and the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Award, a semi-finalist for the Willow Run Poetry Book Award, and a nominee for Best New Poets, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize. She is the author of A Doctor Only Pretends: poems about illness, death, and in-between (2022). Abby is a physician in San Francisco, California.