Photo: Tracy D. Pike
Photo: Tracy D. Pike

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