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autumn/winter 2016

Ways Barbie (Traditional 1959 style) &

My Daughters are Different

by Ellen Hagan


First, they don’t smile all the goddamn time, prim & on purpose
their pouts aren’t raspberry filling or apple crumbled, quaint
quixotic/exotic/erotic/elastic/syrup/bubbled gum
jammed & honey wined—their teeth aren’t solar eclipses 
rows of picket fences where blond ponytails ride hides of horses
their own horse hair wailing in wind—my daughters’ teeth know 
how to slice things & rip/tear/shard to threads—not tamed 
or braced to perfection. Their teeth are renegades, roosters’ 
cocked walks—their mouths know when to say no & hell 
yes, not grin & smirk & bare it—the brunt & groan. Some
times smiles are dangerous, don’t tempt me.   
That’s one.  

Second, they are not made of plastic. Not smooth as salve,
not synthetic organic substances, not malleable or mis-
shapen, not poured or plastered into other shapes—their 
shapes are their own—whole bodied baby, not bodies 
for calling Baby—baby these girls have all the veins & ribs
of real girls. Not 11.5 inches of petrochemicals & plasticity, 
can’t be recycled into other beings & bodies, no 39-inch bust, 
18-inch waist or 33-inch hips of high molecular mass. They’ve got
their own mass—massive & hankering w/ wants & growls 
from real tongues & real lips. That’s two.

Third, they are not dolls—not made for silence or shame
not made with blue eyes perpetually primed/opened/staring
starving. & while Barbie has a tough time digesting anything
my daughters know how to eat/devour/destroy/decimate. They
know when they are hungry & they’ve got bellies & thighs & wide
mouths to prove it. 

& finally they are brown. They carry with them the Philippines
& Assyria. They carry salt & dust. They are no stereotyped stenciled
selves to please consumers caught up in cartoon caricature, kewpie 
doll dress-up damsels & though they do cause me stress—they are not IN distress,
​there’re no trains coming down the track. They are not 
open mouths in fear & in need of saving. They’ve got their own backs
& they’re carrying the weight of themselves. Just fine.

Ellen Hagan is a writer, performer & educator. Her books of poetry include: Crowned (Sawyer House Press, 2010) and Hemisphere 

(Northwestern University Press, 2015). She currently directs the poetry & theatre programs at The DreamYard Project. She is a proud Affrilachian poet & recently founded & curates the Poetry & Pine reading series at CounterEvolution. 

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