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Home: The Toast

In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines
lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.
In two straight lines they broke their bread

and brushed their teeth

and went to bed.

They smiled at the good
and frowned at the bad
and sometimes
they were very sad.

They left the house
at half past nine
in two straight lines
in rain

or shine-

the smallest one
was Madeline.

She was not afraid
of mice-
(the other girls would scream and shriek)
she loved winter,
snow, and ice
(in summer Madeline would not speak)

The other girls were sweet and nice
(No one sat by Madeline twice.)

and nobody knew so well
how to frighten Miss Clavel.

In the middle of one night
Miss Clavel turned on the light
and said, “Something is not right!”

Little Madeline sat in bed,
perfectly still; her mouth was red.

And soon after Dr. Cohn
came, he rushed out to the phone
and he was sick. He dialed DANton-ten-six-
And then was sick again, and then he ran out
into the street, and the phone swung behind him.

No one made a single cry
The room was quiet, eyes were dry.
Madeline made a little sigh.
She smiled and made a little sigh.

In a car with a red light
they drove out into the night.
Madeline woke up two hours
later, in a room with flowers.

Madeline soon drank and ate.
She knew the girls would come. She’d wait.
The girls would have to come. She’d wait.
The girls still in the house would come.

On her bed there was a crank,
She kept her face quite still and blank
When doctors came, and asked her name
When doctors asked her to explain.
Behind her eyes she hid her brain.

Did they break their teeth and brush their bread?
Were there enough girls for two lines?
(How they jolted when they bled!)
(How their necks bent on their spines!)

Madeline could be very still.
She could wait and look quite ill.
Outside were birds, trees, and sky-
and so ten days passed quickly by.

One nice morning Miss Clavel said-
“Isn’t this a fine —
day to visit
Madeline.”
She put a smile on her mouth
And led the girls, reluctant, out.

VISITORS FROM TWO TO FOUR
read a sign outside her door.
Tiptoeing with solemn face,
with some flowers and a vase,

in they walked and then said, “Ahhh,”
Madeline sipped from a red straw.
She had toys and candy from Papa.
Her little hands were hidden claws.

But the biggest surprise by far-
by her mouth there was a scar.
When she smiled and waved adieu
The little scar — it smiled too.

“Good-by,” they said, “we’ll come again,”
and the little girls left in the rain.
The girls ran and fell and ran in pain
They would not go back there again.

They went home and broke their bread
brushed their teeth and went to bed.
They did not look at empty beds.
The closed their eyes and turned their heads.

In the middle of the night
Miss Clavel turned on her light
and said, “Something is not right!”

And afraid of disaster
Miss Clavel ran fast and faster,
and she said, “Please children do-
tell me what is troubling you?”

No voice made a single cry
The beds were empty, dark and dry.
She thought she heard a little sigh.
She swears to Christ, a little sigh.
There was no moon up in the sky.
No light, and not one pair of eyes.

And she turned out the light-
and closed the door-
and that’s all there is-
there isn’t any more.

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