The Ventriloquist’s Dummy
The Ventriloquist’s dummy sits placidly on the antique settee.
It is remarkably well preserved for its age, seventy years
or more, a relic from the early days of television,
or the last frolicking days of burlesque,
drawing laughs by the dim lights of another age.
A toy perhaps, for an aspirational boy creating worlds
with a hand in his back and the struggle to keep lips still.
We all bought in, knowing the dummy was not the dummy,
simply a doll parroting the words of its master, knowing
but pretending, just so we could laugh.
The Ventriloquist’s dummy’s reputation has been sullied
by slasher movies and modern culture, taking on
a life of it’s own, always creepy. We are left
a bit aghast, a bit creeped out, the laughs replaced
by a sense of unease, the puppet become master,
angry and dangerous despite the fixed smile,
never actually changed, except in our eyes, in our memory.
Left on the settee, no one buys it. For years it has sat there,
gathering dust, left waiting for the one who knows
what lives in its hand-carved heart, waiting,
Like all of us, for love.
About this poem.
Dolls like this creep a lot of people out I have learned. Despite that, or maybe because of that, I take a lot of pictures of them when I visit antique shops.
This poem came from a lot of places. From the picture, taken at an architectural salvage place in Main. From remembering the feeling of not fitting in, of being at the mercy of other people’s perceptions who never took the time to actually listen, of discovering love in the most unexpected of places. And too, from a need to look at something just a little differently.