Poem 10: 5/1/01


there are seven doors in my brain

The first door on the left is blue. I keep my flying dreams stored here in dusty cardboard boxes. The box closest to the door is labeled "above the badlands, not crashing." The oldest box here is falling apart, with a faded label which reads "arms outstretched over cornfields where the barns are rusting."

The first door on the right is brick red, with a polished silver knocker below a sliding panel. If you knock four times, the panel will suddenly slide open, and you will see my Grandpa Carlin's face appear like a revelation. Tell him the story about the bumblebees that we made up while I sat on his lap, 4 years old, 60 Minutes preaching through the television in the background, brother and sister laying on the green shag carpet reading the National Enquirer. When he lets you inside, you will see the Boscobel Bowling Alley. He will climb to the top of a ladder to repair a light socket. His heart will stop in 1988, and the rest of him will keep going, like a bowling ball splitting death's teeth and hopping down the throat of time.

The second door on my right is made out of particleboard. It hangs awkwardly by one rusting hinge, so give it a good kick. You will see my father sitting on a stained couch, next to a small table. He will stare at a black rotary phone on that table that will never ring. He might pick at his right ear with a car key in his left hand, or he might pull a nasty red handkerchief out of his back packet and blow his nose. Don't stay here very long; he may try to lie to you.

Across the hall, you'll see a huge barn door. Slide it open, and let the pollen assault your eyes, and the hay chaff dry your throat. Walk through the barn into the dairy pasture. In due course you will come across a little girl in bib overalls, barefoot, stepping on cow pies and letting it squeeze between her toes. Her older brothers may try to throw rotten crabapples at her from the shelter of a big willow tree. Eventually she will become my mother. Not until she leaves this pasture behind.

The third door on the right is painted marine-fatigue green. Don't bother knocking. Walk down the hall for about three miles. The hall will narrow until it is too tight to pass. You will get stuck. You will start to panic. The ceiling will collapse. My stepfather will cut a hole through the ceiling to let you breathe a little. He was the one who built this hall in the first place.

The third door on the left is made of a bulletproof aluminum-iron alloy. A large padlock hangs beneath the doorknob. I have the key stashed away in the family bible, taped next to the family tree. I keep faith locked away in here like a drooling lunatic.

The last door at the end of the hall is made of glass. Peek through it, but don't go in. There's a fluorescent-lit exit sign above. All of the dead are sitting in there, waiting. I'm not sure what they're waiting for. The air conditioning is broken; they are fanning themselves with little blue brochures. I can't make out the writing on them from this side of the door. Maybe I'll go in someday and get one for myself, but I'll have to prop the door open so it doesn't lock behind me. There seem to be plenty of chairs for everyone.

© 2000 James Lee


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