It's impossible for me to throw
away a key.
Though I've tried
153 times just this week. That's how many keys hang
in one of my cupboards on five rows
of five hooks each. The keys came with the house
my husband and I bought three months ago
from a retired couple who lived there
their entire married lives.
Assyrians or it might have been the ancient Greeks
invented lock and key
first out of wood, then made of metal. Before that,
cords of rope made of rush and fiber
fixed doors, bound
the criminals. Back then, it was the knot
that let people in
and kept them out.
When Gordius, King of Phrygia,
wanted to secure his seat to the shaft of his chariot
so that no one could steal it, he tied
so intricate a knot that the man who could untie it
would conquer all of Asia.
So the legend went.
But when Alexander the Great failed
to undo it with just his fingertips, he sliced
the Gordian Knot clean through
with a sword.
There are twenty-one doors inside our house,
all with locks, their keys always
We've also two safes, one set
in concrete by the first couple, one installed by us
when we couldn't open theirs.
On my twenty-five hooks, there are keys
for cars built forty years ago, keys
for padlocks and old fashioned boxes.
There are seven
gold skeleton keys
with long cylindrical shafts, carved
rectangular teeth. One such key has an ornate handle
in the shape of a half-open flower.
I keep keys to every door
I've ever closed,
every house lived. Now I have 153 more for which,
in this whole house, I can't find
a single matched lock, 153 keys that don't fit
any of our doors or safeguard anything.
My husband asks,
why keep them? I ask,
how could they leave them behind?
Sarah Wetzel, poet, essayist, and engineer, is the author of Bathsheba Transatlantic, which won the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry and was published in 2010. After job-hopping across Europe and the Americas, Sarah currently divides time between Tel Aviv, Israel and Manhattan. She graduated from Georgia Tech in 1989, and in 1997, received a MBA from Berkeley. Sarah completed a MFA from Bennington College in January 2009. A Pushcart Prize nominee for the past two years, her work appears in Israeli and American publications including Barrow Street, Valparaiso, Quiddity, Rattle, Pedestal, Stirring, Folly, TwoReview, Shampoo, Calyx, Nimrod, and others.