Jan/Feb 2003 Poetry Special Feature

Miniature Rooms

by Jennifer Finstrom

Photo-Art by Kristen Merola


Miniature Rooms

There is a dream in the back
of my head, room upon room
of chairs no bigger than my palm,
knuckle-sized plates patterned
with baby roses and leaves,
tiny chrysanthemums in pots.
I have a fascination with miniscule
things, the heritage of never
owning a dollhouse. They
will have orderly lives, these
people who live in my world.
No telephone will disturb
their rest, no ominous stranger
arrive unheralded at the door.
They will apply themselves
in peace to what things
their hearts desire. They
might admire their postage-stamp
paintings or read small but
significant novels, living in
comfort every season of the year.

I go often to the museum
to view the exhibit of miniature
rooms. Each one is a story
that dials back time. The
Pennsylvania kitchen has
a spinning wheel and a puff
of creamy wool, sheared, no
doubt, from a tiny bleating sheep.
Napoleon's bust presides
in the French anteroom and
it is 1810 forever. This perfection
exists for no one. Ornate walls,
stilled harp, painted swan
on a painted lake, and no one
there to claim them. I have been
told it is too difficult to make
a believable miniature human,
though an entire world and its
possessions can so easily exist.
As I move along the corridor
I know that the inhabitants are near,
off-scene and patient, waiting
for closing time and the chance
to step into their lives.

The English drawing room
is my favorite. I imagine the woman
who lives there, suspended
in the Georgian age. It seems
that she has that moment
slipped away, leaving a watercolor
half completed on a stand,
needle-sized brushes stowed
in a jar. Jade vases full
of lilies grace every table
and the window tells the tale
of perpetual rain. A little
wooden chair, slightly askew,
is waiting for her to return,
waiting for her hand to take up
the little book that she has left,
flipping its pages until she
again comes to her place.
She will feel how the eyes
of others have inventoried
her belongings. Nothing has been
touched; it cannot be, behind
the smudged glass wall. But still
she shudders at the privacy lost
and settles into her book, relieved
at least that the words she reads
are too small for them to see.


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