They decide to exchange heads. Barbie squeezes the small opening under her chin over Ken's bulging neck socket. His wide jaw line jostles atop his girlfriend's body, loosely, like one of those novelty dogs destined to gaze from the back windows of cars. The two dolls chase each other around the orange Country Camper unsure what they'll do when they're within touching distance. Ken wants to feel Barbie's toes between his lips, take off one of her legs and force his whole arm inside her. With only the vaguest suggestion of genitals, all the alluring qualities they possess as fashion dolls, up until now, have done neither of them much good. But suddenly Barbie is excited looking at her own body under the weight of Ken's face. He is part circus freak, part thwarted hermaphrodite. And she is imagining she is somebody else—maybe somebody middle class and ordinary, maybe another teenage model being caught in a scandal. The night had begun with Barbie getting angry at finding Ken's blow up doll, folded and stuffed under the couch. He was defensive and ashamed, especially about not having the breath to inflate her. But after a round of pretend-tears, Barbie and Ken vowed to try to make their relationship work. With their good memories as sustaining as good food, they listened to late-night radio talk shows, one featuring Doctor Ruth. When all else fails, just hold each other, the small sex therapist crooned. Barbie and Ken, on cue, groped in the dark, their interchangeable skin glowing, the color of Band-Aids. Then, they let themselves go— Soon Barbie was begging Ken to try on her spandex miniskirt. She showed him how to pivot as though he was on a runway. Ken begged to tie Barbie onto his yellow surfboard and spin her on the kitchen table until she grew dizzy. Anything, anything, they both said to the other's requests, their mirrored desires bubbling from the most unlikely places.
From Kinky, Orchises Press, 1997. Reprinted with permission of Denise Duhamel.
Born in 1961, Denise Duhamel is the author of numerous books and chapbooks of poetry, including Blowout (University of Pittsburgh, 2013).
Date Published: 1997-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/kinky