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Keys (1972)

Keys (1972)

© 1972, 1981, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1981). Keys. Cumberlands, 18(2), p. 30.


The late Dr. Leonard Roberts was editor of Cumberlands. He was my father-in-law, but I suspect he chose my poem on its merits– for at the time of submission I was no longer married to his daughter.


Cumberlands Page (PDF)




Keys, keys

A lifetime of keys

Pitched into this bucket

Yale, they say

Master, they say

Samsonite, they say

Or Buick, or Fiat

I save keys

They unlock old memories


This is the key to my first car

The one with the bad brakes

This key fits my grandmother’s house

Although she never locks it

This key fits an army footlocker

In which I have stored

Things too private to tell you about

This tiny key fits a tiny lock

Long ago discarded

This big brass key

Fits the tightroom

At a mental hospital

Where I once worked

Or lived

I don’t remember which

This key fits the lab building

At my old college

Where I used to put together experiments

While my marriage was falling apart

And all the keys in this pile

Are the ones that must fit something

But I don’t know what


I’m going to keep them

Because some day they might fit something

Don’t laugh it’s happened before

With this key

I opened the trunk

Of a Chevrolet

And it is a Mercury key


And now it’s time

To put all my keys

Back into the bucket

They’ve done their trick

They’ve taken me back twenty years

I save keys

They unlock old memories


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