Jennifer Franklin

The Doll 

I wasn’t the one who found what the neighborhood boys did to my life-sized Cindy Sue doll, as my brother watched, after they tried to get me to follow them down the steep stairs to our basement. It was 1983 with the fridge well-stocked and board games stacked on shelves my dad built on weekends when he didn’t have to go to the office. I knew from their faces they weren’t going down there to play games. Not even the Nintendo, hooked up to the old TV my parents had in Ithaca when they first got married. I stayed upstairs doing homework, my small white dog perched on the kitchen table, and heard the boys laughing. My mother found the five-foot doll—naked and face down on the rust velvet sofa—jagged cuts of bright red crayon marked her where her underwear should have been. I was too young to understand what they were doing to this plastic version of girls they knew but sensed it came from a place deep inside them. When my mother told my red-faced brother that those boys could not come back, fear found me like the musty smell of the basement that always stayed on our clothes even after we walked upstairs and shut the door. 

In our dream band, on violin:

Jennifer Franklin has published two full-length collections, most recently No Small Gift (Four Way Books, 2018). Her third book, If Some God Shakes Your House, will be published by Four Way Books in 2023. Her work has been published in American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Bennington Review,  BlackbirdBoston Review, Gettysburg Review, Guernica, JAMALove’s Executive OrderThe Nation, Paris Review, poem-a-day” on, and Prairie Schooner. The Night Heron Barks nominated her poem, “Visiting Hours at the Psychiatric Hospital,” for a Pushcart Prize. She teaches in Manhattanville’s MFA program. For the past eight years, she has taught manuscript revision at the Hudson Valley Writers Center, where she runs the reading series and serves as Program Director. She lives in New York City. Her website is

“Still Life—Violin and Music 1888
William Michael Harnett

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