My father never came to a gate deep within the woods
only to find it locked and he without the key. Because
he never carried any of the keys, which is to say, they
were always there already, hidden somewhere nearby,
near their locks, the only place a key is ever needed.
Almost always there was an old stone wall
with a cube of schist too heavy to lift. Or granite.
Almost too heavy to lift. But tip the rock gently
back and forth and the rock will rock back just enough
to reveal a single, gleaming, patient, metal key.
Or there would be a certain tree at a certain spot
with a hollow knot like a mouth in the bark
open and calling out a name, and it would be a game
to see if I could find it and in how long. Yes, my father
was a hider of keys (as am I now he is gone).
Taylor Mali is a poet and educator and one of the original poets to appear on the HBO series “Def Poetry Jam.” A four-time National Poetry Slam champion, he is the author of four previous collections of poetry and a book of essays, What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World. He curates the Page Meets Stage reading series in New York City and is the inventor of Metaphor Dice. These poems are also forthcoming in Taylor Mali’s book Late Father, published by Quercus.