Paper Doll


I am less than a stranger

to my parents.


We lived together

for 19 years

in the same way

that deep sea creatures

might co-exist with other creatures

that they never see.


In the darkness of the ocean

invisibility is not a superpower

it’s part of the culture.

We were not defined

by perpetual darkness (as the fish were),

but had the power of sight

to perceive others

as paper dolls

or mirrors.


I am less

than a stranger

to my parents.


The familiar paper doll

(the friend from the deep sea)

betrayed them.

Shattered their mirrors

(and those clone-like reflections)

in an act

of rage.

Doll no more,

she questioned the culture

she insulted tradition

and asked,

“isn’t it strange that I don’t know you?”


I am less


a stranger


my parents.


“We don’t want to be known!”

they cried,

terrified of revealing themselves,

even to each other.

They polished the mirrors.

They hummed mantras to themselves

in the darkness.

(This. is. all. there. is.)

(Don’t. question. what. is.)


The doll that was me

left the deep

for the surface.

I found something

beyond co-existence

and I drank fully

of the light.


I wanted to bring the light

down into the depths

so I brought a different me.

I brought me,

and no paper doll

to hide behind,

and they said









than a



to my





19 years

were quickly erased


I left the culture

of invisibility.

I became visible,

but unrecognizable


my parents.


Now I am me

and I’m trying to see

that every

paper doll

is someone real.

Not a doll,

not a clone,

not a reflection in a mirror.


My parents are too.

They are real people

who can see

what has been

made visible.

My parents can see

a stranger

who ruined

their paper doll


when they look at me.


They’ve asked me to stop –

my answer:

“certainly not”,

and now

they are angry at

this stranger.


So I am less than a stranger.

I am a stranger

who asked questions

that paper dolls

aren’t allowed to ask.

I am less than.

I am distrusted.

No longer allowed

to even co-exist

in the same space.


I am less

than a stranger

to my parents.


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