Frozen Charlotte of the Shore
I found her on a winter's day -
she was stuck in the sand,
her tiny face imploring me,
"Oh, please, lend me a hand.
Come, pick me up and rescue me -
the wind is freezing cold.
I may look like a little girl,
yet I am really old.
This place is beautiful but harsh.
I dread the frothing sea.
I fear the rocks and those white birds
who always pick at me.
I am afraid I might get shipped,
or worse, could even break.
The silt does chafe my China skin.
Help me, for Heaven's sake."
I wrapped her in a handkerchief,
and carried her away,
and put her on the windowsill
where all my sea glass lay.
She seemed to like her newfound home,
and I made her a dress
of pretty printed cotton to
cover her nakedness.
Then, I looked up her origin,
for I was not aware
that figurines like her get found
on beaches everywhere.
These dolls were (made in Germany
from porcelain or bisque)
imported in large quantities -
the toy business was brisk.
Over one hundred years ago,
they sold for a mere cent.
Then, people called them penny doll -
by popular consent,
they later became known and loved
as 'Frozen Charlotte', though,
after a famous old ballad
that recounted the woe
befalling a fair, foolish girl
who set out with her beau
in a sleigh to a New Year's ball,
driving through frost and snow.
She was not adequately clothed -
yes, vanity and pride -
and overcome by the great cold,
she consequently died.
Yet, this sad, cautionary tale
did not impact the joy
the Charlottes gave to children: They
were wild about the toy.
Mine does preside over the gifts
the ocean gave to me,
beautiful shells and tumbled shards
of glass and pottery
I did collect on the same beach
where our paths did meet
when she had been in such distress -
now, she is safe and neat,
and leans against a jar that holds
marbles and stopper stems,
some corals and a wishing stone,
and other coastal gems.
She gazes through the windowpane
right into my backyard
where robins play, and squirrels sing -
I know within my heart
that sometimes on a summer night,
fragrant, cloudless, and still,
when nobody does look at her,
my little Lottie will
mysteriously come to life,
tickled by a moonbeam,
stretch out her limbs and start to dance,
and her wee cheeks will gleam.
There'll be a smile upon her lips,
a sparkle in her eye -
she cannot hide her pleasure, though,
she might not even try.
In my imagination, I
can see her skip and twirl,
not frozen any longer, but
a lovely, lively girl.
Copyright: Silke Stein, March 2023