Keys (August 5, 2020)



Keys (August 5, 2020)


In music, the relative minor

Of any major key 

Is a minor third lower. 

They share the same notes,

Arranged in a different order.

Major is usually considered happy

Minor, sad,


How peaceably the two

Can coexist. 


I keep all my keys on a hook by the door:

Keys to my apartment, two sets,

One for guests.


The key to an old bicycle lock,

Jeffrey’s bicycle,

The white Peugeot I inherited 

When he died at 32.

It rusts in the basement.

I’m afraid to ride it 

Because one Sunday,

Outside the Paris Commune,

I opened my car door in the wrong direction,

Nearly killing a woman

On her way to a waitressing job.

She went flying.

Her head just missed being smashed 

Under the wheels of an oncoming car.


There are Mary Jo and Ted’s keys

To their formidable house in Bedford.

They said we could use it anytime,

Back when we were friends.


There are Nicole’s keys,

Who watches LUCY when we’re away.

Lucy loves Simon,

Nicole’s scrappy rescue.

She seems happy there.

But once,

When I left her,

She stared at the wall;

Wouldn’t turn around when

I tried to say goodbye.

I was so upset,

My back went out.



Ma Mere et Moi Photo provided by Wonderlust




There are keys to somewhere

I don’t remember,

But I’m afraid to get rid of them

In case I do. 



Behind them all,

First on the hook:

My mother’s keys.

She gave me keys to everywhere

She ever lived,

Both, with my father,

And then,

After his fifth heart attack,

Without him.


These keys mean 


On a squiggly piece of green plastic,

Like a nappy strand of hair,

It looks like a loosened slinky,

Or seaweed.

Keys to her last place:

Kings Point,

Atlantic Beach, Florida.

Every house looks the same.

You have to be at least 55

To live there, and

Not necessarily, 

A King.

After Diabetes 

Made her wounds unmanageable

She closed the shades there

On her independence. 



Casa Del Mar, in Boca,

The first of two nursing homes.

The second being The Atrium,

Where she lived until she died.

They sound glamorous, don’t they?

Casa Del Mar, The Atrium,

Like Gloria Swanson’s last 

Hollywood hideaway;

Shades of castanets

And a rose between her teeth.


A glittering glass dome

Under which 

Busy shoppers on Fifth Avenue

Perusing the Galleries,

Might sip cappuccino.


When they moved her

To the second floor 

With the Alzheimer patients,

(She called them “the Alzies”

Insinuating, she hadn’t sunk that low)


I would find her asleep

In a wheelchair in the kitchen,

Her hair unkempt,

Smelling like pee,

Her velour track suit

encrusted with various spills:

Ensure, mashed potatoes, jello.

Gently, I would wake her

As if she were my child,

Wheel her around,

Sing to her.




If I said

“I love you, Mom,” 

She’d say,

“I love you more,” 

Staring off 

Into the distance.



Ricky Ian Gordon
Ricky and his mother…… Kevin Doyle



Kevin gave her 

A beautiful photo he took:

She and I

One day 

When we took her to the sea.

“Who is that,” she asked.

“You!” He said.

“No.” She said.

And pushed it away.


My sister Sheila convinced her

To stop dying her hair.

It was too labor 

Intensive getting her to 

And from the

Beauty Parlor,

Too much maneuvering.

But then she gave up;

Stopped looking in the mirror.

Sheila still feels guilty.

In the photo Kevin gave her,

Her hair was gray.


They wanted me

To remove her wedding ring.

I made up a story.

I was going to get it cleaned,

But she smelled the truth

And wouldn’t let me.

When they started the morphine

The nurse volunteered to take it off.

She had to grease the finger

To get it over the arthritic knuckle.

My mother winced

Crying out from her coma

Like a wounded animal.

I believe,

She thought she was no one,

Without that ring. 

Sheila gave me the ring to sell,

But I won’t.


I would like it

If the keys

Could take me back

To the first house 

Where we lived,

In Island Park.

Every day

During the summer,

We would go to the 

Harbor Isle Beach Club .

I would swim,

Or catch killies in towels we dragged

Like nets through the water,

And she would play Mahjong

With the girls.

(She called the other Moms, girls.)


One time, at home,

I was upstairs in their room.

It was dusk

And getting dark.

I was watching “The Three Stooges,” on TV.


Overcome with panic and dread,

I ran downstairs to the kitchen,


“Where do we go when we die?” I cried.

After only a moments pause

She said, 

“To the Beach Club,

Just like here.

I’ll have a game with the girls,

And you?

You’ll be playing Shuffleboard!”


Comforted, I ate my dinner,

My existential angst, 

And terror, 

Not returning, for at least

A few years.


Today I told Sheila,

I was afraid the anti-depressant

Might have shut me off

From the place where poetry comes from.


Oh mom,

Smelling like Arpege,

Wearing a tight sweater:

Your cleavage bursting through

Like ripe tomatoes-

We are in 

A global pandemic. 

I could die!

I hope you were right.


April/May 2020