Perihelion: An Online Journal of Poetry and Mayhem
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Lucy Dougan

The Forge

for Sally Scott

The women in these suburbs
all flirt with the man who cuts keys, fixes heels.
They can’t help being won over
by the light that glowers at his shop-front.
Too sure of himself, by half
my mother would say.
He dyes his hair unflatteringly dark.

Once I took him shoes,
a second-hand pair.
God love, he asked,
what have you been doing in these?
I laugh at the histories I could invent
for these strangers—sleep-walking, bacchic dance.
I laugh and say nothing
as he hands me the little green slip.
But I don’t go back for a long, long time
(life more ruptured than the wreck
of shoes I handed him, impossible to unlock)
Where you been darl?
(if I could click my heels)
It’s a story I cannot tell—
what kept me from redeeming
something fixed.

At night the women in these suburbs
unlock their doors
with keys fashioned
by the man at the kiosk.
They kick off their shoes
shiny and re-heeled.
They smile without quite knowing
how the man with the dark, dark hair
has eased his way into their smallest, secret places:
snug in the palm, firm at the ankle.
And I chide myself gently
for not telling him the story of the book
I swapped for shoes
or why I had been away for so long.