The James Hearst Digital Archive

Home » Poetry » Lock the Door

Lock the Door

Text of Poem

Now you have burned the letters—
did you save one? No, no, let them all go.
The afternoon drifts into twilight,
the peace of evening shadows the silence
of an empty house where emptiness
drains your eyes of tears,
if you could still weep.
You are no priest with holy water
to wash the past from your hands,
revive the dead plant in its dry earth
hanging by the window, nor wipe
the dust from the tables once altars
for fresh flowers.
Do you sweat to restore your pictures,
or do you sweat here to prove the owner
will not let his books mold,
the dresses hang for strangers to discard?
You walk the floor to make a sound
to keep you company, wipe down spiderwebs
as if the years lay in wait to trap you
in the snare of your own spinning. 
Flies lie here that have forgotten flight,
the fireplace sits in its ashes,
no scouring powder under the sink
to scrub the stains from the linoleum
you lock the door when you go out
burdened by the calendar.
There is no sorrow as desperate
as the memory of happy days
when you are sick, old and alone.

First Line
Now you have burned the letters--
Original Pub Location
Original Publication Date
Original Citation
Great Lakes Review 4 (Summer 1977) 67.
Complete Poems
Hearst Collections
Word Count
Poetic Form