The Closet

(...after my Mother’s death)

Here not long enough after the hospital happened
 I find her closet lying empty and stop my play
 And go in and crane up at three blackwire hangers
 Which quiver, airy, released. They appear to enjoy

Their new distance, cognizance born of the absence
 Of anything else. The closet has been cleaned out
 Full-flush as surgeries where the hangers could be
 Amiable scalpels though they just as well would be

Themselves, in basements, glovelessly scraping uteri
 But, here, pure, transfigured heavenward, they’re
Birds, whose wingspans expand by excluding me. Their
 Range is enlarged by loss. They’d leave buzzards

Measly as moths: and the hatshelf is even higher!— 
As the sky over a prairie, an undotted desert where
 Nothing can swoop sudden, crumple in secret. I’ve fled
 At ambush, tag, age: six, must I face this, can

I have my hide-and-seek hole back now please, the
 Clothes, the thicket of shoes, where is it? Only
 The hangers are at home here. Come heir to this
 Rare element, fluent, their skeletal grace sings

Of the ease with which they let go the dress, slip, 
 Housecoat or blouse, so absolvingly. Free, they fly
Trim, triangular, augurs leapt ahead from some geometric
 God who soars stripped (of flesh, it is said): catnip

To a brat placated by model airplane kits kids
My size lack motorskills for, I wind up glue-scabbed, 
 Pawing goo-goo fingernails, glaze skins fun to peer in as
Frost-i-glass doors ... But the closet has no windows,

Opaque or sheer: I must shut my eyes, shrink within
 To peep into this wall. Soliciting sleep I’ll dream
 Mother spilled and cold, unpillowed, the operating- 
Table cracked to goad delivery: its stirrups slack,

Its forceps closed: by it I’ll see mobs of obstetrical
 Personnel kneel proud, congratulatory, cooing
And oohing and hold the dead infant up to the dead
 Woman’s face as if for approval, the prompted

Beholding, tears, a zoomshot kiss. White-masked
 Doctors and nurses patting each other on the back, 
 Which is how in the Old West a hangman, if
He was good, could gauge the heft of his intended ...

Awake, the hangers are sharper, knife-’n’-slice, I jump
 Helplessly to catch them to twist them clear, 
 Mis-shape them whole, sail them across the small air
 Space of the closet. I shall find room enough here

By excluding myself; by excluding myself, I’ll grow.

Bill Knott

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