Visiting Elsa Whitt – a poem by Tom McDade






The twine thin woman reels calmly

about, arranging her lifelike wares

on a carpet of bonded burlap bags.

These are not children’s toys. 

The tallest, about five-foot-five

under a wounded tartan parasol.

A calligraphic sign on a stand

at her feet is like one marking

a garden plot, names her Elsa Whitt.

She dons clothes of another time,

brown bonnet, shawl, bell-shaped gown. 

Cheeks puffed and blushed she’s locked

in place pushing a wicker pram with one

square wheel and Elsa looks so

damned genuine, let her find

a door ajar and she will lopsidedly 

brave the damaged cobblestones. 

The baby, wearing a moth-hurt bib

is a pond reflection of her mom. 

A notice across her plaid blanket

Says she won’t wet, whine or cry.

Is this a mausoleum vault, pyramid

or merely a haunted space? 

A breathing corn-eyed cat atop

a china case filled with doll heads,

rags and limbs strikes a Cairo pose.

Is this sparse proprietor

chopping a finger at two harlequins sitting

cross-legged on a settee, a ventriloquist 

a puppeteer or just an addled hobbyist?

A musty tulip of silk is in the hand of the chubbier

delinquent while the other’s head tilts

heavily as if just slapped.

A music box plays a handful of notes

but not enough to liven or endear.

With the scratch of a match, a scented

candle flickers then leaps

at a bride and groom under glass.

A yellowed newspaper on the floor

tells of a formal wear shop arson,

a proud manikin with singed tails survived.

Instead of asking: “May I help you?”

The owner says, “You may help me.”

Offering a broom that clears

browsers out the door like straw

her free arm pivots robotically

to halt Elsa’s sneaky pram.


Thomas Michael McDade is retired computer programmer living in Fredericksburg, VA with his wife. He is a graduate of Fairfield University. McDade served two tours of duty in the U.S. Navy. He has recently had fiction published Gadfly Magazine and poetry in Ink, Sweat & Tears.



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