“Foreplay,” “Red Sneakers,” and “21 Questions for Minnie Mouse”

Photo by pixarno on Adobe Stock


We tried to comb out the glued ponytail of the first Barbie

and dress Ken.

The basic Ken came with a bathing suit, but you could buy a sleeper set:

brown and beige striped pajamas.

Ken, always problematic

with his plastic molded hair,

or worse, the glued on fuzz.

We borrowed our brothers’

GI Joe dolls as stand-ins,

dragged around our pink, plastic

wardrobe boxes from house to house

and spilled out the contents to start the play:

tiny high heels,

hats and gloves we struggled to put on hard hands

sunglasses that just wouldn’t stay.

We pulled the skimpy dresses

off little hangers

and inched them onto the dolls.

stared at the pages of the fashion booklet

and began our first real longing:

the After Five ensemble, or even


the Wedding dress, the Tuxedo.

Ah, girls who had the wedding dress, knew.

These were the pre-stars

of our own dating games:

Barbie’s stiff breasts, slight waist.

We hoped for the best,

acted out love in hard plastic

and sequins.

Red Sneakers

I remember my boys in two dollar sneakers:

flailing red feet, white souls,

running 86th Street to see if they worked right,

when Brooklyn was every place

with only one way home.

We hung out at the hospital for stitches,

dug out glass and pencil point, the Christmas flu.

My daughter came in breath-hold purple, there

wrapped in the blanket my mother made for me.

Four of us on the D train to Brighton,

a bag full of bologna and cheese.

No real end in mind.  Just

a half-baked admission of shoes outgrown.

Still, like the shadow of a sundial—

but the next thing you know, day's gone.

I cried at that first graduation.

Just turned and saw him,

knew we made it,

knew I had been scared.

My daughter stands eye level now.

She's exactly like me.  She's not at all like me.

21 Questions for Minnie Mouse

What's your maiden name, was the marriage prearranged,

did you live together first?

Where do you buy your shoes and do you

really choose to wear that color clash, polka-dot, hit and miss–

ever make Blackwell's list?

Does Mickey's voice annoy, with his, Hi, girls and boys;

does he have a real voice?  Does he kiss you?

Do you think cartoon is art,

are you art?

Are you

as some say—

a postwar Betty,

sexless and breastless

—tacked on,

like an after-thought,


Have you ever said anything not written by

a committee, or clean enough for the baby,

like a lie?

Like something your own?

Do you dream,

take off that stupid petticoat

and hair-bow and breathe,

in a place where the

spotlight's on you, Minnie,

and it's your show?

About the Author

Penny Freeland

Penny Freeland is a NYC transplant. She moved to the Outer Banks of NC, which satisfies her need to be near the ocean. Her poetry is urban, yet full of nature, a reflection of her new surroundings. Her work has appeared in fine journals, such as Rattle, Black Rock and Sage, Red Booth Review, Eclectia and Bird & Dog. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and teaches English at American Public University.