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The Saturday poem: Doll's House

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By Jacob Polley

A table set with tiny plates,
the chairs around a paper fire:
diminishment has simplified
the aims and objects of desire,
while blinder faith must still provide
the mincemeat in the wooden cakes,

the creaking stair and wind outside.
For you have held your breath to peer
along the shelves of depthless books
lining a room where nothing's read;
and now, effortlessly giant, look
up to the eaves and in at the beds.

Be brave. To live is not to fear
despite the scale of what's at stake.
Two children lie in matchbox cribs.
Next door a couple, stiff as pegs,
are tucked together, rib to rib,
the bedsheets bound around their legs.

What happens if you turn away?
Every god has asked the same,
crouched at a sideboard, just in case
sudden little laughter shakes
a heaven like an empty house
where not a plate nor day will break.

• From The Havocs (Picador, £9.99). To order a copy for £7.49 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop


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