The Key


A key clicks imagination like a cliché.

This great key has dangled
Behind the daily jangle of others,
Unhooked to access those ordinary places
We choose to lock so casually.
I lift it now,
Feel the cold weight of the old, worn iron in my palm,
Wondering what lost mechanism it releases.

And so, my fancy conjures
The image of a door –
Set in a weathered, brick wall,
Too tall and ragged with brambles to scramble over –
Its great hinges pitted with rust.
Fingers of ivy inch across the timbers,
Already grey with crinkled lichen,
Securing some recollection, too long neglected,
From a muffled childhood
Until the key, turning, quickens memory…

Or lets imagination step
To the bottom of the cellar stairs
Where a candle, set upon the stone-flags,
Gutters in the draught,
Seeping from beneath a blackened door,
As if within something exhales in sleep.
The hole is furred with cobweb
But the key fits snugly and snaps free the lock.
The merest touch and the door creaks open…

We can only imagine what awaits.

I spin the bow on my finger and muse comfortably
On secrets and mysteries
And the keys which might reveal them.

But surely there are things best kept confined.
Darkness is merciful
If it wraps images too grim to contemplate.
A door kept locked liberates
If what lies behind is a horror
Too potent to admit.
We may seek the key
Not for any fanciful meandering
But to know we have the means
To shackle and incarcerate for ever
Which, if freed,
Would sever us from peace.

Poems for Artemis