Joanne Barrie Lynn

Boxes, Locked and Found

Today they surround me, small as my hand,
some big enough to bed down in. Haida boxes,
watertight. Steam-bent. Kerf-cut. Each face
carved and painted, with inlaid abalone eyes--
Thunderbird rises from ashes, Orca sings--
each hidden silver lock what I have keys for.

They live in my dreams, filled
long ago with whatever I couldn't
hold onto, and mustn't lose. Some
of them nest.

One, heavy in the hands
with a massive lock, holds
my poetry, a sacred chant
in the vernacular, the gift
I was born for.

In the box with the biggest eyes
lurk electric probes. Needles.
Hands that hurt. Those milky
eyes have wept for me.

Some hold emptiness, locks
broken, and one is full, with
futon and pillow and duvet,
soft as a bed, with a lid to
coffin me.

One, enormous, rooted to the ground,
contains my rage. I leave it locked for
now and see, lost in shadows, a small
box, found last, full of pearls, like tears,
silky to the hands, as if I deserve such
beauty, as if all this wealth is mine.

Copyright 1996, Joanne Barrie Lynn

Joanne Barrie Lynn is a founding member of Avalanche Poets, and is the 1996
winner of the William Stafford Award, Washington Poets Association.