BY SHARON OLDS
I am locked in a little cedar box
with a picture of shepherds pasted onto
the central panel between carvings.
The box stands on curved legs.
It has a gold, heart-shaped lock
and no key. I am trying to write my
way out of the closed box
redolent of cedar. Satan
comes to me in the locked box
and says, I’ll get you out. Say
My father is a shit. I say
my father is a shit and Satan
laughs and says, It’s opening.
Say your mother is a pimp.
My mother is a pimp. Something
opens and breaks when I say that.
My spine uncurls in the cedar box
like the pink back of the ballerina pin
with a ruby eye, resting beside me on
satin in the cedar box.
Say shit, say death, say fuck the father,
Satan says, down my ear.
The pain of the locked past buzzes
in the child’s box on her bureau, under
the terrible round pond eye
etched around with roses, where
self-loathing gazed at sorrow.
Shit. Death. Fuck the father.
Something opens. Satan says
Don’t you feel a lot better?
Light seems to break on the delicate
edelweiss pin, carved in two
colors of wood. I love him too,
you know, I say to Satan dark
in the locked box. I love them but
I’m trying to say what happened to us
in the lost past. Of course, he says
and smiles, of course. Now say: torture.
I see, through blackness soaked in cedar,
the edge of a large hinge open.
Say: the father’s cock, the mother’s
cunt, says Satan, I’ll get you out.
The angle of the hinge widens
until I see the outlines of
the time before I was, when they were
locked in the bed. When I say
the magic words, Cock, Cunt,
Satan softly says, Come out.
But the air around the opening
is heavy and thick as hot smoke.
Come in, he says, and I feel his voice
breathing from the opening.
The exit is through Satan’s mouth.
Come in my mouth, he says, you’re there
already, and the huge hinge
begins to close. Oh no, I loved
them, too, I brace
my body tight
in the cedar house.
Satan sucks himself out the keyhole.
I’m left locked in the box, he seals
the heart-shaped lock with the wax of his tongue.
It’s your coffin now, Satan says.
I hardly hear;
I am warming my cold
hands at the dancer’s
the fire, the suddenly discovered knowledge of love.