You think you know them already, memorized
like the sentences your mother murmured when you couldn’t sleep,
the fairy tales that chased the monster insomnia back
to its lair behind your eyelids. Count them now.
The first is the door of bedtime stories, of cleverness
and mothers’ voices, tucked beneath his pillow
like a dagger. He knows the tales better than you do.
The second lies between the grassy hills
on the south edge of the forest, past cold streams
and birdsong, a door for summer, berry-stained kisses,
the color green. The third is made of glass, of mirrors,
lost slippers, coffins, other reflective surfaces,
spells and arbitrary laws. Even princes get lost.
The fourth door is hard to find,
centered in a labyrinth, guarded by beasts,
by birds with women’s faces, lions who ask strange
questions about the weather and your heart’s desire.
This is the door of nightmares on the eve of battle
or in witches’ thorn-encircled dungeons. The fifth
is set in blue tile at the bottom of a pool
in the courtyard that his mother’s window overlooks:
This is the door of wishes, promises, strange bargains,
of true names whispered in monstrous ears.
The sixth door lies in the center of a crown,
the shadow of a throne, the swish of a ball gown
on a marble floor at midnight. It is the door of
lies and flattery, and its hinges are well oiled.
But the seventh is a secret even I can’t tell you,
buried in an oak’s roots, a tinderbox:
the crisp taste of a crimson apple, the bounce
of a golden ball, the glint of an eye opening
after one hundred years of sleep.