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Shiny plastic and wood

Make a puppet,

Subject to the real boy’s whims.

Open-hinge mouth

And arms on a wire.

You dance for him.


Placed in the corner shelf

Between a forgotten truck,

Banged up with play,

And a threadbare Raggedy Andy.

You count the days

Before you’re sent away.


Nicole Zelniker is an editorial researcher at The Conversation US and a recent graduate of the Columbia Journalism School. She has published several pieces of poetry and short stories as well as Mixed, a non-fiction book about race and mixed-race families. Read more of her work at

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