Throughout this interactive poem, you will find links to other poems and artworks, allowing you as the reader to determine the path of this poem – whether it’s read straight through, temporarily sidetracked along the way or permanently diverted to a different destination. Enjoy!!

Russian Doll
Sarah James

She always liked organising:
Christmas, birthdays, the children’s toys.

He used to sit and watch, admiring
the way she never forgot a thing.

All neatly packed away
and labelled in indelible ink.
“For a rainy day,” she used to say.

He didn’t expect her brain
to file her memories into drawers
then throw away the keys.

The top drawer was the first to go:
the one where she stored yesterday’s walk in the park
and the cardigan he bought for her birthday that week.

Then other things began to slip away:
their grandson’s birth, that holiday to Greece,
their wedding day.

Doctors say the bottom drawer will be the last to go:
the one where she is again a little girl;
his face a stranger’s in her house,

where he sits and watches time remove
layer after layer of Russian dolls.

Original version published in Birmingham University literary competition anthology 2003 and then in Into the Yell (Circaidy Gregory Press) in July 2010.