I tell my daughters, let’s make a dessert for bad girls—for the florid, the delinquent,
for the deeply hazardous—
A cake involving heavy cream. Let’s beat in eggs till batter skims
a private shape, scattered with shattered pistachio nuts.
Not a body involving unflavored gelatin. Or instant nonfat dry milk.
Not cold water and corn syrup.
Let’s whip the batter until it disappears. Let’s burn sugar icing.
Roll the dough in a hot towel. Singe angel wings under the broiler.
I want a girl’s body to be a measuring cup banged loudly on a table. The sky a demand.
Vintage 1969 Mattel Baby Tender Love Doll, Talks, Drinks and Wets
Baby like a Magic-8 Ball. Baby like a boiled egg—
My real baby’s cries fill the room. She could swallow the whole house
into her pink rosebud mouth. I’ve been told crying is her language.
I’ve been told to lock her alone in a room then to bite down
on a towel to keep from screaming as she cries. Instead I remember
Baby Tender Love, doll baby who only speaks if you yank her string.
Obedient toddler: if you tip a bottle of fake milk to her mouth
she will neatly soak her diaper. I loved her and I want to buy this baby
now sold on EBAY, I remember her mechanical voice,
I love you I love you I love you while I sit all night nursing
my real baby in my green rocking chair. Baby Chew My Finger.
Baby Tatter My Skin. Sweet facial complexion with painted dark eyes. Short blond
rooted hair—wearing this lovely knitted pink top, skirt and panties
First week of her life, I left my daughter only once, for infant CPR Class.
Bent over the rubber baby model, I bit the lip of the false baby hard as I could.
Baby Who Won’t Sleep. Baby I Can’t Put Down Because She’ll Scream.
Crying is the way a baby roots herself to earth. Crying is her protest
at being born from me, her fury at being given me as her mother.
Baby Fingers Twined in My Hair. Baby Head Slick with Gel
for an Ultrasound on Her Brain. Baby Waiting With Me in Radiology in the Dark
Baby Sweet Yeast Smell Behind Her Knees.
In the middle of the night, in the green chair—Refuse Baby, Tattered Baby—
Baby Tender Love cries only once to tell me she is sick, to alert me
that the river of fake milk running fast through her bloodstream
is poison, that she wants me to twist her string tight
around her neck, thread an NG tube up her nose,
slip a bolus of morphine, into her hand like an empty balloon.
Glue a fentanyl patch to her thigh. Baby Be an Egg That Opens
and Plays a heavy metal lullaby that none of us know—
Wait at the edge of her glass crib.Gently played with and in great vintage condition for
her 45+ years PREOWNED and Preloved
Wait for what? Dear Baby on My Lap. Dear toddler body I once loved. Dear baby gone
down the dark hole where we’ll all one day go.
Can you burn a plastic body down to ash?
Nicole Cooley grew up in New Orleans and now lives outside of NYC. She has published four books of poems, most recently Breach (LSU Press) and Milk Dress (Alice James Books), both in 2010, and a novel. Her work has appeared most recently in The Rumpus, Drunken Boat, and the Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day. She is the director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College-City University of New York.