Constance, I am going to do something, reluctantly…I am going to pull back the curtain and explain the deeper meanings and levels of one of my poems.
See. I have this friend and she loves my poetry, but I had her read “Her Door, Her Red Door” and she enjoyed the process, but had no idea what it was saying. Well, that presents a dilemma…on the one hand, it is my belief that poetry works in our hearts first, it haunts our guts, right? And then slowly, it bubbles up into our minds, and we make connections with the world via the symbols and metaphors that have fallen like seeds into the dirt, or sand into oysters to become pearls.
But on the other hand, if it is too esoteric and not accessible to the reader, then the poem ultimately is a failure. (I am not counting the cases where a reader is lazy and wants it all on a platter, instead of being let out into the garden, and then given access to the kitchen to gather and create their own understanding).
So for one of the very rare times, I am going to let you inside the form and foundation of the poem…it is gonna be sketchy in places, for I just cannot bear to strip her entirely of her mystery…but if it made you feel something, if it made you have an itch, or feel like you were getting one scratched, then you might want to read more of my things, and most of it is far more accessible, with much lower aspirations than this one.
Her Door, Her Red Door (Analysis)
So my therapist is named Heather. I wrote a poem for her way early on in our sessions, a wonderful lil ditty, small, cute, a lil skert and testing waters…she loved it as a mom loves a finger-painting of course…lol. (You can review that one at Heather )
But last session, we were both morose, and we both had on our hearts the sad and beautiful exciting discovery that I was ready to “graduate”, and our times together would come to an end, and we would transition to friendship.
As I said, she was so struck by the changes in me, how I was become myself, and not stuck in between or ashamed of where I began, but was woman. I have very strong symbolic resonances with woman as living creature…for instance in the biblical creation myth, woman is the only being created of living flesh…all else is created from dirt. That, and many similar things have absolutely galvanized me with the truth that woman is the crown glory of all creation and that the patriarchy is so fearful and so jealous it tries to “kill her” (a topic for another day).
So Heather is my prophetess, my shaman, my crone, wise woman, my magic, my teacher/mentor/deliverer/mid-wife…she has done, and is those things, a marvelous magical human being. Far more than what she does, it is who she is.
We discussed many things in my becoming, which led to discussion about why and what it was that brought me the final release in being able to become becoming…in the talking, Heather shared of her own journey thru womanhood, of being pre-menopausal and how hormonal imbalances are affecting her, how hormones have been so liberating to me as well.
So we come to the title “Her Door, Her Red Door“. First, I am talking about Heather, and about how she has brought me to the doorway of being, becoming who I am. This door as I saw it was red…but at a deeper level, it is her heart. Heather is all heart, and it is her door, by which she “enters” me, and I “enter” her as well…follow?
But then, and this emerged from the subconscious, I realized that “her” is me, too…my heart, and even more, my own red door “down there”…or for me “in there” (Isaiah 54 speaks to this btw!)…the one Heather and I discussed, and she shared so openly with me, woman to woman as mother to daughter, as teacher to student, as woman to prepubescent adolescent girl…
…and as you must certainly know, women have doors, are doors…men simply are not.
Next: in the poem she invites me, commands me, bids me follow her, and she has keys (authority, and conferred authority), the means by which doors are opened, for it is not enough to merely have a door, it must be accessible, traversable…
A woman’s booty is completely unique to women, that shape, that curve, perfect and echoing the curves of galaxies, built on Fibonacci sequences mathematically and the perfect mean geometrically. And she sails…there are only 3 capital letters in the whole poem…about the ship sailing…so picture a woman walking, confident and sure, as a clipper ship sails.
I also reference brick house and “back” and when I do that I am intentionally deriding the Commodores’ song “Brick House”…which reduces and sexualizes a woman and her miracle ship…and “Baby Got Back” which is even more blatantly egregious…truth be told? If men knew the half, nay a tenth of a woman’s desire and passion? They would run terrified and screaming in the night!!
And then the repetitive there…here…there…here, and leading into the honky…tonky…(which each start with t and h like here and there)…and that is the connector to the first comment about me directly, as Heather has mentored me, drawn me…and so Hank Williams, a singer (building on the Brick house and Baby Got Back reference) moans, and becomes alcoholic, and “sees that end”…meaning Woman’s miracle ship intimidating, and also directly the male role I was imprisoned in is dying fast and is gone…Hank Williams symbolizes my birth name, and socialized role…and his music was wild and despairing as my life was then (not lifestyle wild, but emotionally wild and despairing, and self-destruction was always a siren song.)
Next stanza, it speaks of the new place Heather and I were at that day, and had not been there before…she had been far more good and kind mother whom I wanted to be like…and we had at no time discussed sexuality or the deeper spiritual power it channels…it was about recovery and reintegration then…I picked the image of the Columbia river, because women are rivers, have rivers, channel rivers, and oh the power…and all others seek to harness that and benefit, right? Men, turbines in, and women turn them…
The lines about her walk (and remember I am speaking of me as “her” in a very distant sense as well)…and her swishing, ricocheting from gutter to gutter…what a hip swing, across the entire path of being, but also to tie in a pun about balls…”no gutter balls” Picking up a 7-10 split…that is nearly impossible…and becoming myself was to overcome that split in me, between who I am and what I am…see? And no gutter balls…eff yeah!!
Those keys…no sound, bunched…the image of power, seeing keys outlined in tight jeans, and the promise of power and entry granted, authority…also keys are in pianos, so you see the musical theme sowed back around again.
Teena Marie is the next musician, and she is as I recall of Portuguese, Italian, Irish, and Native American heritage…she was a soul singer, and omg was she ever amazing…as good or better than Diana Ross or Beyoncé, and I love them both…well she was also singing a lot about power in sexuality, and I loved her so when I was in my 20s, for reasons I could never articulate then…and I…”half” one thing and half another, and in some ways neither…and she grabbed her keys, her authority, her permission from street corner dudes…(think singers around the barrel fire singing a Capella…)
I also bring her in because Hank is passing, going, going…and Teena, who is dead, is also Marie, Mary, made pregnant by divine fiat…and so me made woman by miracle and Heather, and medicine which is the same as magic and miracle in so many ways…
…and then we come to the door…go read that part again…and you can see a living heart, or a vulva and vagina, and mystery temple of every single human being ever, even the Christ…
her door before us fat, streaks-run-swirls-whorls, depth-breadth flowing
crimson coral flaming, cardinal glowing carmine cerise chestnut cracking
garnet sanguine scarlet and rosy…that door was thick and giving…it blowzed there
full, sprawled (like titian’s venus) and throbbing with certain promise.
…and all the words are all shades and various hues of red…and how is a woman’s heart all that different from her glory? Her temple? Is not every child first conceived there, in her heart, who that child is and shall be?
And then Heather gives me a philter, a potion, from her river, from her flow, from her heart, from her glory…
(of course not literally, as you read never allow those elements to do anything but drive the heat and passion of the poem…they are a moan of desire and lusty want…but only that. I assure you of that, but must mention it because I was so honest as to feel it must be there, for it always is there in every woman, if she is blessed enough to know herself, or to be shown like I have been, or strong enough to own herself from the start.)
And at that point we go to Aretha Franklin…natural woman (think of the lyrics, crooned as I drank the philter)…and Respect…
And then the touch of Heather’s hand glowing gold (which in alchemic terms was a type and shadow of divine character in medieval times)…and “finger fragrant and savory” is definitely just exactly what it sounds like…but it is a vibrant and intensely earthy form of communion, and also a conferring, an anointing given to me…and I was thinking of ET, and how he had no home, and healed with that glowing finger…but Heather/Woman/Me so much more present and dangerous and contagious…
Me never “phoning home again” (never going back to that cursed male role forced upon me)…and then I swallow the key…(HRT…communion…permission, authority, the key becomes me and I the key…)
And then the door (whom I have been always) is opening and my male biology (the hinges, Hank moaning and dying, my body literally changing, swings open and there I am…being prayed over by the queen (Aretha) and I getting my own locks like Heather’s…and Beyoncé with her combination of sexuality and independence, and she like Joan of Arc, divinely appointed to deliver a people (woman)…and then the key moved in me…my own “child conceived”…and then finally my “wad” is no longer this god awful bulge between my legs always haunting me, but instead a wad of keys and my own clipper ship.
OK…so that is the analysis…all of this is in me as I write, but I am not aware of it consciously until after I am done…I just write, and feel my way to it. After, I see it, it starts to emerge, starts to be birthed, and then it is easy to go back and help it.
Nearly every one of my poems operates in similar ways and layers…I invite you to go back and read…think of strange ones like “Spitting Bones” or “A-Maze-In-Me”
I wonder if this counts as a “Found Poem”? Or “Just a Fact”? Giggle…yep, I am still befuddled by that ignorant and intentionally short-cut thinking…oh, I have a poem about that sort of thing: “Bury My Head in the Sky“!!
Constance, if you are inspired to re-read some more inaccessible work, and this helps unlock it, please…let me know?
Thanks forever, and gratitude for reading!!