WHAT IS LOCKED

(This poem appeared in The Spoon River Poetry Review, Volume XXXVI, No. 2, Summer/Fall 2006.)

 
What is locked
Remains locked
Like a coffin
Or a sealed court case
A bricked-in fireplace
Or a box of jewels
Whose key is lost
 
You pushed me
Through the door
So I could lay claim to my life
Not to long for yours—
But how I’ve yearned for
A funny father story
A jealous sister
A single childhood romp
Or rage
 
My longing reduced to
The need for only one broad stroke
Or a trifle
The color of your mother’s hair
Even
 
Then I visited you at eighty-five
And you said you once
Tried to train a dog
Brought up on Russian commands
To respond to English
At your aunt’s house
Across the street
From your house
When you were sixteen
                                                                                                           
“Sit,” you said you said
But the dog did not sit
 
And a few things fell into place
Why you always asked about my dog
Why you tolerated dogs
In your pristine environment
A new slant on you
One without drama or tragedy
Or having been wronged
 
And I wondered
How much was actually unlocked
And whether I had the key
To dare to ask
Or satiated
Would let what was unlocked
Become locked
When you pass
 
And ride unburdened
To my own end
On one mundane canine episode
In which as sidebar
At least one quarter
Of my national heritage