Helen Ivory

The Dolls’ House Mysteries
November 10, 2014 Helen Ivory

The Dolls’ House Mysteries



A woman lies so tidily

below the belly of her cooking range,

it all looks intended;

the ironing board, a saddled horse

provisions in the cupboard enough for a week.


Her shadow seeps into her clothes,

the cake cools

on the thrust out tongue of the oven;

the utter pitch of its throat.




It’s the triangle between the point of the toe

and the handle of the tap

and the exact site at which the water

hits the woman’s upturned face

that fixes this composition.


Geometry is important.

It pulls the eye away

with invisible machinery

from the pandemonium

of carpets woven with human hair.


And the imagination

is manoeuvred deftly

from what happens to skin

once doused for hours

in water teemed with fluoride .




Fire lived here once;

slept in this bed low like a dog

pressed to its mistress.


They watched the calendar

inch though the year

as the sun slipped its anchor.




A child presses fingers to blood-spats

on the candy-stripe wallpaper,

traces the outline of the pink blanket

draped over the edge of the cot,

while her mother explains

that something bad has happened

in the dolls’ house.


The child has just-washed hair

and her ruby coat is still buttoned

against the December rain.

When they’ve gone

the gallery assistant rises from her chair,

sprays the glass with ethanol

and removes the prints with a lint-free towel.


* The Doll’s House Mysteries is based on The Nutshell Studies by Frances Glessner Lee, photographed by Corinne May Botz.

Helen Ivory is a poet and assemblage/collage artist. Her fourth Bloodaxe Books collection is Waiting for Bluebeard. She edits the webzine Ink Sweat & Tears and teaches for The Poetry School, The Arvon Foundation and The Poetry Society. She is Course Director for the Continuing Education programme in Creative Writing for UEA and Writers’ Centre Norwich. And she is co-editor with George Szirtes of In their Own Words: Contemporary Poets on their Poetry (Salt, 2012)