When the diagnosis came in: stage four
metastatic cancer, I hauled the dolls’ house
from my mother’s basement, mouse dust
and damp pressed-board. It was no small
feat, dragging our prized toy, a full
four feet tall, up my mother’s stairs to scour
the wall paper with ammonia, to tear out
the tiny carpets seeded with droppings, to gut
the house she’d glued down with paint brushes
and toothpicks. I scrubbed till my sinuses
ached and, lightheaded, I nearly lost my footing.
Oh, hollow boarded room, aching
and stinging with astringent—
what am I but this womb, part miniature home,
part scoured box they’ll lay my mother in?