Thursday, March 5, 2020

Labeling Keys

When I was 12, I forgot the keys to my parent's apartment. So I simply climbed up seven floors to get in.
~Alain Robert, urban climber

There's something so intriguing about keys.

photo by Ivan Radic

Labeling Keys
by Taylor Mali

Though not a secretive man,
my father understood combination locks and keys.
Yes, he was a Yale man. And he had a love affair with brass.
And he had a key rack as organized as the writing on the label of each key was neat.

It’s the same angel that made him label and date
butcher‐paper­‐wrapped leftovers in the refrigerator
with Christmas‐present creases & hospital corners
and little 2 by 2 post‐it notes with possible suggestions
for the leftover’s use: “Turkey scraps. November twenty­‐three.
Yummy treat for the D‐O‐G?”
secured with (count ‘em) one, two rubber bands,
one for snugness, the other for

But there’s an art to labeling keys.
The one you keep to your neighbor’s house
cannot say on it:
“Neighbor’s house across the street.
In Maine for all of May.”
these are labels you will not see at our house.
Instead, my father wrote in his own argot,
in a cryptographic language of oblique reference;
the key to the burglar alarm he called THE SIREN’S SONG,

read the rest here

You can also watch it here:

Bonus from Taylor Mali's blog: A poetry assignment based on a poem by Danusha Laméris

Michelle has an interview with me and monthlong poetry challenge at Today's Little Ditty!

Rebecca Herzog has the Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks, Becky!


Ruth said...

So great! I have my own little ring of KEYS TO UNKNOWN PLACES, and I live in fear that if I get rid of one, then that will be the exact key I need in my ongoing quest.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

What a wonderful poem. It was interesting reading it through and then listening to Taylor Mali read it. It was wonderfully quirky when I read it, but it was actually a surprise when the author read it and it was downright funny.

Linda B said...

Now I'm wondering how many do keep keys, ones that really are for something and others unknown, but challenging to throw away. I collected many keys for my classroom & used them both in math and in poetry. They elicited imaginative poems always. This is wonderful, Tabatha, about the wonder of keys but a tribute to his father, too. I loved hearing Mali, too.

jama said...

Oh, it's been a long time since I've read a Mali poem. Loved this one! As Linda said, it's a wonderful tribute to his father, and the humor is quirky and real. I'll never look at keys the same way again. Thanks for sharing!

Tara said...

Love this poem, and the affection and the wry humor.

Karen Eastlund said...

Loved the poem, it took me many places. My father was one who wrapped things so securely. Sometimes it took several tools to unwrap his packages. And the keys! I love the cryptic names....Gerald! Hahaha. And then the unknown keys... I found one this week. What to do with it? How to label it? Thank you for this post! I had not read Taylor Mali. I will now look for more of his work.

Michelle Kogan said...

What a treat this poem is, and it just got richer hearing Taylor Mali recite it! Loved the key names he came up with (or his dad did), and the magic they may bring… we have some of those stray skeleton keys hanging around too… Thanks Tabatha! said...

Thanks for sharing this wonderful poem. It really spoke to my heart. Keys are magical and I often thought about how to label keys that I wouldn't want a burglar to know what they were for. It also reminded me of the stanza in Dan Foglelberg's song, Souvenirs"
And here is the key
To a house far away
Where I used to live
As a child.
They tore down the building
When I moved away
And left the key unreconciled.

I love that phrase "left the key unreconciled"