Bringing the Dolls by Merlie Alunan

Two dolls in rags and tatters,
one missing an arm and a leg,
the other blind in one eye—I grabbed them from her arms,
“No,” I said, “they cannot come.”

Each tight baggage
I had packed
only for the barest need:
no room for sentiment or memory
to clutter with loose ends
my stern resolve. I reasoned,
even a child must learn
she cannot take what must be left behind.

And so the boat turned seaward,
a smart wind blowing dry
the stealthy tears I could not wipe.
Then I saw—rags, tatters and all—
there among the neat trim packs,
the dolls I ruled to leave behind.

Her silence should have warned me
she knew her burdens
as I knew mine:
her clean white years unlived—
and paid my price.
She battened on a truth
she knew I too must own:
when what’s at stake
is loyalty or love,
hers are the true rights.
Her own faiths she must keep, not I.


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