“There Was a Door” by Leatha Kendrick
There was a door and her hand
on its lever. In too many clothes –
her coat’s wide cape collar,
her high button shoes, a bonnet
heavy and huge whose beruffled
lining frames a thin face. Enough to smother a watcher.
For more than a century
she’s stood, not going through.
Was she leaving or coming home?
Time has carried her cheekbones
into our Susie. Susie running
morning and evening,
as soon as she stood up to walk, she was
running. I cannot imagine her
stopped so long in a doorway
in a browned bonnet, feet stilled
and buttoned, though the lattice
my grandmother stands at is the same
lattice on Susie’s gate in Virginia.
Who made this photo? Maybe the door
isn’t a door, though the ground’s gritted
as if she were leaving a garden.
What do I have to say today?
Only Oh and Oh and Oh
let me cross my own boundary
open the door –
or shut it if that’s what it takes
to keep the dark out a while.
Only a while, long enough
to open light’s letter, to read
the familial hand that is my hand
open to draw me into the courtyard
out to the road.
There was a door to the river
I never lived beside – a door
on its changing shoreline, its shining.
My hand on the lever.
Previously published in her 2020 book, And Luckier
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Leatha Kendrick Artist Statement:
I am the author of four books of poetry, the latest, Almanac of the Invisible, from Larkspur Press. My essays, poems, and fiction appear widely in journals and anthologies, including The Baltimore Review, The Southern Women’s Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume III: What Comes Down to Us – Twenty-Five Contemporary Kentucky Poets; and I to I: Life Writing by Kentucky Feminists. I was honored in 2013 by the Kentucky Foundation for Women with the Sallie Bingham Award. I lead workshops at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington, Kentucky.