Air Raid Precautions Warden Doll, London 1944

To comfort, relief in affliction, consolation, solace—
That shelter’s cold dark mouth, this body—
A flood of milk: first one breast, then the other.  I want
the baby milkstruck.

Milkdrunk.  Overmilked.

Over—another word that means nothing
as I feed the baby in front of the TV in front of America’s new war,
while in Liverpool while in the Blitz while in an evacuation
in the air raid shelters, nurses hand out the warden dolls—

Hold a baby on your lap

smell her hot pink plastic  twist her dress around her legs

her white bonnet hides her bald head.

Doll in a gas mask doll at the breast

I must be careful: must flip the nipple from her mouth.
Must dislodge the gas mask from her face, baby in a shelter, baby–
The gas masks at all army supply stores all five boroughs of the city sold out.

I nurse the baby, I watch the war.

There is no body I can do anything about.

In London, air raids divide the night and the nurses lead the children

 down, past ticket machines, past stone walls, into

Tube station shelters,

clip identity bracelets on the children’s wrists to identify their bodies.
In London, all the mothers are gone.
In New York, I watch a wedge of light under the door I watch
the world shut out I watch the war. I hold the doll I hold the daughter.
Above ground, in Kensington: a Victory Garden— all the flowers replaced with cabbages
the size of too large roses, size of breasts,

size of a baby’s head.


Nicole Cooley's most recent book is Breach, a collection of poems about Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Coast. Her awards include The Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets for her first book, Resurrection, a Discovery/The Nation Award, an NEA, a Creative Artists fellowship from The American Antiquarian Society, and the Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America. She is currently completing a non-fiction book My Dollhouse, Myself: Miniature Histories and two new collections of poems, Mad Money andOf Marriage. She is the director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College-CUNY where she is a Professor of English.