The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Adrianna Robertson

Paper Doll


Once, I was made of paper.
Vellum and tissue formed the ghost of me.
I pressed on clothes, folded down the tabs
over slim shoulders. They never stayed.
I should have used tape to fasten them,
secure some idea of fullness
in my small drawn hand.

At my perforated dining table, in my exact beauty
of crisp taffeta and lilac feather stole,
roast turkey and mashed potatoes made of parchment.
A mind shredding into little balled bits—
always craving what could be cut out
of a glossy covered book.
I rubbed red over near-dead lips, pretending
color could wake my paper face.



Adrianna Robertson

I Count Geese, I Count Breaths


In the fairy tale I read over again,
a girl is lost in a forest filled with lessons
about finding home.

One wicked witch, two paths
through the windy wood, three apples.
Careful, which you choose.

One old bridge, one hill, one house.
Seven stone steps. I am still here.
This is what losing a mind is like.

I twist hair around my index finger
until the skin grows numb.
Under a down duvet, I shiver,

rock my legs back and forth
to subtract five or ten calories more.
At 5A.M. running circles

around the pond, ten laps. I count
geese feasting on damp morning grass.
I count breaths.



Adrianna Robertson



Back then, by flashlight, I wanted to read books
about ordinary girls swallowing themselves.
These sorts of instructions seemed easy
to follow. There seemed safety in smallness.

In letters I imagined opening when I was older
or other, I said I am writing to you with my eyes.
But, do ghosts have eyes? Tell me
I will see myself before I disappear.



Adrianna Robertson

Truth Garden


Then I look to the flowers
for answers. To delphinium,
columbine, coral bells:
who am I?

Ugly words surface, but they
erase them all. Sometimes, I pluck
their patient petals. I could

undo beauty, just like that.
Really, I wanted to
reverse it—make beauty
from nothing. Take dirt,
and cover my hands

in dark, sticky mud,
form an other-than-me.
In winter, I took dolls there.

Arched rubber feet
disappeared under a cold, white sea.
Then knees—then hips—then head.




ADRIANNA ROBERTSON received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She is currently working with Cynthia Cruz on two poetry anthology projects. She teaches at The Ursuline School and she lives in Connecticut with her family.



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