Animal Dolls by Ron Houchin

What wordless song floated from their heartless
forms as they lounged on her bed, leaned at her
window seat, and slouched atop her hope chest,

each in its plastic bag? We could not know (rat
in its lace dress, pigeon in housecoat, crow
in a white cape, barn owl in blue robe, possum

in Cossack coat) to what feral gods she prayed
in her sleep. Her old rubber and porcelain
babies lay naked in a pyramid, piled

behind the garage. No longer cosseted pets.
Sometimes, early or late, as official light waxed
or waned, she’d stroll back from the longest

county road, her basket often over-filled
with those the road had thrown off, intact,
overnight— never the mashed or the mangled.

We worried like mice, knew we should do
something. Against every doctor’s
prescription of confinement, we wait for her—
our only daughter’s— zodiac to be complete.


Ron Houchin lives on the banks of the Ohio River, across from his hometown of Huntington, West Virginia. For thirty years he taught public school in the Appalachian region of southernmost Ohio. His work has appeared in The Southwest Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Five Points and many others. HIs first novel, a horror story called THE DEVIL’S TRILL is making the rounds, looking for a publisher. He has seven previous books of poetry and one collection of short stories published. His latest book, The Man Who Saws Us in Half (LSU Press’s Southern Messenger Poets Series) was awarded the Weatherford Award for Poetry in 2013.

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