Original poem reprinted online here: "The Ventriloquist's Heart" by Lisa Allen Ortiz
Originally read: October 18, 2013
More information about the Poet: Lisa Allen Ortiz
Awkward conversation, "At dinner I lean in close. / I say: The ventriloquist's heart has eight chambers. / His blood lurches from one to the other." For a poem, this sort of conceit can be metaphorical and can be gotten away with, well sometimes, but what this poem does is acknowledge the impracticality of lines like this in a real conversation, "I am trying / to explain exactly how I feel." And this isn't one sided.
"You say: let's go home." The other speaker has more of a say on the direction they both go. So the question at this point is who is the "dummy" or who is the "handler"?
In the car, I hear clapping and an audience roaring
with laughter. I follow you upstairs. Beneath my sequined top
I hide a music hall: no cover, two drink minimum,
jokes all night.
Note how the real situation and the illusion situation interplays here, but also that the speaker is aware of both. The speaker takes in the attributes the fanfare to itself. Yes, the speaker carries the music hall, the audience, the noise, but in actuality only one action has occurred, "I follow you upstairs."
"The spotlight softens. It's sad-- / we all know inside the doll are nothing but fingers, / a voice tossed the length of an arm." Based on the poem, this line is predictable -- how the "doll" (not puppet) and the handler are different. So now we know who is in control and who is just following.
The after effects of the poem is once again the perspective of the speakers. Yes this was a one night stand, "You watch me but say nothing." Nothing stands out other than the predicted flow until, "I do not tell you what I know: His heart is too large, / blood enough for the two of them." Does his refer to the "handler"? The one that the speaker expects to have "eight chambers."
What stands out for me is how delusional the speaker is to hold onto the roles until the very end. The last line seems to try to get back at the other by being passive aggressive in the mind. Yes, the other doesn't know at the cost of what? The speaker's body.
There is no "empowerment" of the doll regardless of voice or length of how the speaker wanes about the moment. It's all waxing poetically from the point of view of a doll.