Sooner or later in each of our lives
It occurs: our fingers, groping in
A pocket, close on a small shape
And draw it out. An everyday key?
Not quite: with a curious sheen, perhaps,
Or seeming very ancient, or
Of foreign make. In any event,
Not one that we have ever seen
Or used. Then why are we suddenly sure
That this is the key we’ve needed all
Our lives? —The key that was formed to fit
One certain lock that silently
Will let its door swing open...
But where is the lock to be found? The world
Is wide: hidden or plain to see,
Rusted or oiled, of every shape
And size, its locks are numberless.

The search may last a lifetime, and
Perhaps with manic fury; or,
With tears or sniggering or sighs,
Ridiculously end. For some
Have keys that bend and break, and some
Just never find their lock; or else,
Though lock and key seem grooved to match,
The one is slightly bigger; try
And try again, they never fit.

Saddest of all is he who for years
Has stubbornly sought for his lock, and now
It is almost night. He has come to a place
Where he stops in surprise. "O yes,"
He softly says, "O yes: here at last
The door with the lock that my key is to fit.”

For a long time he stands and stares
And fumbles in his pocket. Then
Withdraws his hand, empty, turns,
And without once looking back
He wanders off.


Reproduced with permission of Helen Drutt English.