by Georgia O’Keefe
The black door entices, but if you
enter, where would you be?
The walls hold no graffiti—only a
falling leaf that seems reluctant to
reach the ground.
The ground is only a painted yellow
floor—the flat blue sky the ceiling.
Is the door a real door, or only a
black square on painted scenery?
The inside of the black door makes a
shadow-sound, holds the key.
THE KEY HOLE
After Dragon Amulet, Antonzis Kalaktzis
I had an amulet I used to wear, a fetish
to my half-believing spells against
the harms and dangers to be feared.
It had a leather thong that knotted
at the neck where hung
a tiny key-hole made of brass
that fit an actual key,
although I had no key for that.
The key was clue and risk,
a double play against permission
and reluctance to let in.
For years I wore it—lightly joked—
how it protected me from
something that I could not know
but might be true.
I let myself believe
what I could use to let imagination
have its errant way of wit.
My talisman finally disappeared
and I was left to my own rule.
There’s no comparison for this—
but I wonder what was really lost.
It’s not like it was
a gold or silver cross
on a furtive chain.
Perhaps it found and followed some old
key that fit—that it was lonely for.
I guess one does outgrow
such habit-need—and besides,
I think I do as well with worry stones.
OLD KEY TO OLD LOVE
I will send this key to my old lover—
make him guess. Love is mysterious.
He will wonder what it’s for:
what love . . . ? what door . . . ?
the key—the lock—my heart—all rusted.)
He will unwrap the key with expectation
—turn it in his hand and try to remember
why it seems familiar—
why it keeps growing smaller and smaller
until it becomes a flaking blemish
in the rusty hollow of his palm.
After Toyen (Marie Cerminova), At the Chateau Lacoste, 1946
The beast of sorrow is hungry.
It has always starved.
It has always been held captive by need.
It has become a mural.
It cannot escape the wall though it weeps
and the prey comes up to it in pity.
Though it snarls,
it cannot feed.
Though the prey
has pity, it cannot be sacrifice.
Something always stays between.
What is lost is what we love.
NOTE ON THE DOOR
how is it we are all caught up in darkness
the house is large
night fills it
candles are afraid of this
matches will do nothing
till one of us cries terror
then light will flare
and find our emptiness in mirrors
(first pub. in The Little Harlequin, 1975)
FOR THE BIRD SINGING THROUGH THE OPEN DOOR
This night the bird sings to us through the open door—
a bird we name Night Bird since he is invisible in the dark,
a bird who insists that we hear him—
who sings and sings his very best to impress us,
and we give up our conversation to him until he is finished,
and he gives us back a silence that is lonelier and changed.
OPEN MY SAD DOOR AND COME IN
I am lying here in my old dress reading poetry
on a high bed. There are nine pictures on the
walls—all of women in poses of supplication
and joy, in moods of reflection and serenity.
I am none of them. I am chaotic silence.
Screams are in my mind and mouth; I do not
utter them. I am surrounded by an aura of
Do not change this. Boxes of books are stored
around me. Broken mirrors are under my bed.
A cat sleeps on my knees. A teddy bear in
shiny cellophane on a dresser top is waiting
to be a gift—as we all are. It will not smother
there, not until it is loved. A teardrop mirror by
the door never sees my face—my face is
always blurring past it in the middle of nights
when my hands grope familiar darkness too
dark for mirrors.
RECLUSE AND KNOCKER AT THE DOOR
I must not leave the house today. The sky is wild.
The tardy birds are worried. Grass is clawing in a
yellow clutch of wind (…what is that sound…?).
It’s only Tom. He skitters beneath the bodiless
dresses that hang like other selves so limply in my
closet. (Here, Tom. Here, Kitty Kitty…)
The nervous windows of the house rattle to one
another. The dusty curtains quiver in that con-
versation. My ghosts make movement. Tethered
darkness holds them, but I will not have the light
lest they be seen by anyone but me.
There is a touch of cobweb on my skin. The
spiders put it on me while I sat day-dreaming,
waiting for the clock to finish out the hour. I
hold a broken handle and look for me in some-
thing half-remembered. (Just the dream.)
The childrens’ voices tell me, coming thin and
crying from their flaw of time. I silence them.
(No, little curious hands. No. Don’t let the
knocker in. The faithful door insists we are not
home.) We cannot find ourselves. Once, when I
was frightened, I broke every mirror. The image
still splinters when I turn my head. And now I
search for my whole face in slivered glass.
(…Sh-h…Hush, Kitty Tom. Hush, children in my
mind. The wolf is knocking at our door. He’s
going to huff, and puff, and blow our house down.
I told you this would happen.
THE INVISIBLE BIRD
scold all you want
bird in tree
the tree made of fairy tales
the emperor is looking for you
(first pub. in California Bard, 1975)