Origami Doll

Shirley McClure

on a mirrored shelf
she displays

her flat chest,
the artful grace
of her kimono.

So cleverly made
you'll never
work her out.

Tentatively passed
from hand to hand,
she's kept away

from forces
that will change her
into ash or mâché.

But as you know,
a doll
has a mind of her own –

she's in love
with the illusion
of flying.

No matter how
careful you are,
one day

without so much
as a bow,
she will leave you

for the River of
Three Crossings
or you may find her

dressed in white,
six coins in the palm
of her hand.

From Origami Doll: New and Collected (Arlen House, 2019)

Analysis by Elaine Feeney:

Origami Doll is such a beautiful poem, with strong attention to form and a poise mirroring the action. The extended metaphor of the origami doll is precise and perfect, but it also excavates the power of the mind, the strength and independent spirit of the doll. There is a raw tension between power and tenderness in this poem and the brutal sadness of the passing of time. The image of the Sanzu River in the second last stanza, with six coins in the palm of her hand, the doll asumes human qualities and leaving “without so much as a bow” is particularly tragic. But this poem is also life affirming, it is accepting, balanced and almost grateful. The doll begins alone on a mirrored shelf, and sets sail alone. A really beautiful and brilliant poem.