Photo by zhenzhong liu / Unsplash


Poetry Sep 20, 2023

by Isabel Dorn

My past dwells in the dollhouse –                                                                                        a narrow three-story abode squatting in the alleyway                                                 between a mass grave of half-naked plastic girls                                                          and the sturdy wood of my closet door. Fifteen years ago,                                         they called it the Dreamhouse. Now the shutters are broken,                                         the stickers peeling, the floors covered                                                                              in a mystical layer of thick gray dust. But if I press                                                       the tiny switch hidden under the faded crib sheets, I can                                           still hear the tinkling melody that once soothed                                                   stillborn bug-eyed doll babies that lie frozen                                                                 still here in their eternal youth. When I was young                                                          I thought I could subvert time too. But this closet is too small                                     to shelter me now. Or perhaps my body is just too big,                                       carrying the weight of womanhood upon the bones of a girl                                          in sixth grade, the last days before first blood                                                          before the straight roads on her map learned to curve                                                and tore the fabric of her candy-stripe world. Crushed and forgotten                        at the bottom of a toy chest lies                                                                              Wedding Barbie and Ken, still side by side                                                                   and destined for eternity as they were sold                                                                       in a boxed set. I used to think this was true love –                                                    plastic bodies beautiful and motionless, unburdened                                                    by the hunger that crept into my games of dress-up. Even now                                    I still long to play pretend. I can be anything                                                                     if only I dream it. I could learn to care                                                                              for a man, the way I learned                                                                                              the quadratic equation and parallel parking                                                                they don’t come                                                                                                           naturally but who am I                                                                                                           to question                                                                                                                           what is natural? I’m twenty and I’ve seen                                                                              too many strange things. I long to take refuge                                                         within these bubblegum-pink walls where everything is possible                                 and nothing is uncertain. It’s all manufactured, of course                                           but reality hurts. Just give me five                                                                                 more minutes of girlhood before                                                                                           I must be grown again.

Isabel Dorn (she/her) is a junior at Lawrence University studying Creative Writing, Government, and Russian. She is a frequent contributor to her university’s weekly student-run newspaper The Lawrentian, where she shares pieces ranging from op-eds about intersectional activism to poetry that explores the complexities of coming of age in the 21st century. As a Vietnamese American woman, she sees writing as a powerful tool for social justice and strives to create more visibility for underrepresented groups with her work. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her participating in student government, creating niche Spotify playlists, or enjoying a good boba.