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Alice Changing Size In the Hall of Doors

ISSUE:  Winter 1996
Even now, my father’s voice travels far
   In the silence and my mother is driving

Away from us, growing smaller, smaller.
   My mother is about to disappear.

I could take you there, to where the story
   Opens, to the house where each night

I waited for my father to begin, locked the door
   Pushed my rocking chair under the knob, keeping us

Safe, lit two blue candles, spread my mother’s good white cloth
   Over the table like the sheet stretched flat

Across the bed she never slept in. My father sleeps
   All day, in my bed, a bed he is too big for.

He curls his body, tries to make himself smaller
   In his sleep. I listen for his breathing,

Touch his shoulder, his damp skin, to wake him,
   Say it’s time, lead him to the table where,

Between us, on the cloth, I fill the water glass
   With whiskey. I know how much to pour, how to hide

The bottle and the book together beneath my mother’s bed.
   There is no place for you at the table.

Stand back. Stay here. I will let you listen.
   I will show you how we leave this house, my father and I

Alone together, as he begins to read. The candles sputter,
   Flicker, burn. We are so safe

Without my mother. My father drinks slowly,
   His voice filling the room, rising along the walls.

There is this stillness, heat, a haze that shimmers
   In the grass. In the boat, Alice sits shaded

By the haycocks, by the faint wind that blows like breath
   Over the lake. Dressed in white the Reverend Dodgson rows.

He takes off his straw hat, begins. He invents
   The story as he goes along.

My father and I fall, fall slowly
   In the dark. Together we turn, spin to the center

Of the earth. Cupboards line the tunnel walls.
   There are books, glass bottles, watercolor maps.

My father points down a long, low hall, lit
   By a row of lamps. He shows me the three-legged table

Made of solid glass, the tiny golden key.
   On the lake the boat drifts as the story ends.

Alice turns towards the shore, towards home.
   The oars cut the surface of the dark water.

I hold my father’s hand. We stand so still.
   This is the beginning of another story.

My father cannot enter the hall of doors.
   He cannot fold his body up to fit inside.

Behind one of those doors, there are blue flowers, crystal
   Fountains, there is a garden, open sky.

Tell me, did he want me to leave him,
   To grow smaller, larger, to grow up, to disappear?


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