Under Lock & Key

. . . finding a safety pin for a lady’s knickers
that’s fallen down.
—Douglas Millin (University College, Oxford)

Being nowhere else,
but with you    I look
back upon    locked in,
doors closed as in
a monastery.

Hallowed time because
of the air    we breathe—
what I’ve longed for,
more than a fantasy
I now tell you about.

Oh, pain    modesty
I expected to hear about,
nerve-endings    what I
acknowledge to myself
being with    you only.

Staid and proper
virtues I learn to live by,
contemplating    love again
in another time    or place
I tell you    about.

What keeps passing between us
until the next    embarrassing
moment occurs    pins and
needles never far away—
I assure you    once more.

What you’ve come    to expect
in more genteel ways    valour
with words sung    now more
fully expressed    I indeed
want you to know.

Questions and Answers

As a published writer, what are your tips or words of motivation for the aspiring poet?

Write every day and re-write constantly, and focus on images. Avoid generalized writing. As Coleridge said, fiction writers put words in the right place, but poets put the right words in the right places. “Metaphor, metaphor,” I cry.

What poetic techniques did you use in this poem? How much attention do you pay to form and metre?

Each poem determines its own specific form and metre in usage. With this poem and the many drafts I did, I kept playing with form and style and rhythm, as well as with inflection tied to lineationuntil the poem began taking its own organic structure  giving “life” to the experience behind poemas I imagined it.

This poem “Under Lock & Key” originally appeared in 60th Anniversary Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 239 (2019): 66-67.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.