I’ve Been Away Too Long–So, Here’s a Poem

Barbie Dolls on Drugs

I was twelve and you were six, and we spent
every Tuesday night together for a year.
Your mother at Weight Watchers, your
father driving truck, we watched the Wizard of Oz
so often we knew the script by heart, and when
we tired of TV, we invented games. You had
a huge playroom with the Barbie Townhouse,
and a whole town of Barbies. One was the mother,
and one the daughter who stayed out all night,
came home naked, platinum blond hair
a tangled wreck. Mama Barbie screamed,
“Where have you been?” Daughter said,
“I don’t even know what’s going on.”
They slapped faces with right-angled arms,
and Daughter pulled on a sparkly gown
and hopped away with her plastic suitcase.

Days later, your mother asked to talk
to me, said, “No more Barbies on Drugs,
please.” If she would have been nosier, she
might have discovered I got the idea from
the live show I watched at home, starring
my teenage brother and young stepmother,
sparring, yelling, my brother’s frequent
vanishing acts. But I know now your mother
was trying to keep your dad from disappearing.

All these years later, you and I are still
best friends, and I’m both sad and grateful
for my youthful ignorance–your house was an escape
from my own, where I dropped in a video tape,
air-popped some popcorn, and sat with you
to watch a young girl find her way back home.