i'm the life-sized doll filled with straw

in my white sailor's suit, clutching my stuffed lion.

a family maid who knew my voodoo

gave me to a child, robert “gene” otto.

the child would live by my new law.

the child soon called me by his first name

as if we were inseparable twin brothers.

i went everywhere he did. but his mother interfered--

she overheard two different voices

shouting in gene's bedroom. she found mutilated toys,

overturned furniture when they broke in.

gene screamed robert did it! mom and dad

merely laughed at the toy scapegoat.

most humans don't know how my power grows,

its looming shadows. giddy inhuman laughter

echoed through those rooms. and yes, the doll

glimpsed hurrying upstairs, moving

from window to window--that was me.

older, gene inherited the mansion after his parents died.

as if faithful, I stood by his side,

black button eyes sewn to his paintings

in the turret bedroom. gene married.

his new wife nearly fainted

when she met me. she complained that he and I

had grown too close. she locked me in the attic. how traumatic

when that woman soon went mad and died.

she learned who gene's real friend was.

i survived to sit at his deathbed.

i outlived the whole family in the end.

did I kill them? you'll never know.

there was no trial, but i'm imprisoned

in the fort east martello museum in key west.

i put a curse on those who snap photos

without asking first, those who don't show respect.

later, they write the letters taped to my glass case.

they beg me to lift my hexes. after hours,

when the museum's closed, i never tire of the fun:

i laugh and read aloud repeatedly the pleas

of weeping fools who plead for my forgiveness.


Matt Schumacher's poetry chapbook of fantastical drinking songs, favorite maritime drinking songs of the miraculous alcoholics, was published last year, and his third book of poetry, Ghost Town Odes, will be published in 2016. He helps edit Phantom Drift and lives in Portland, Oregon.