Locking Yourself Out, Then Trying to Get Back In

You simply go out and shut the door
without thinking. And when you look back
at what you’ve done
it’s too late. If this sounds
like the story of life, okay.

It was raining. The neighbors who had
a key were away. I tried and tried
the lower windows. Stared
inside at the sofa, plants, the table
and chairs, the stereo set-up.
My coffee cup and ashtray waited for me
on the glass-topped table, and my heart
went out to them. I said, Hello, friends,
or something like that. After all,
this wasn’t so bad.
Worst things had happened. This
was even a little funny. I found the ladder.
Took that and leaned it against the house.
Then climbed in the rain to the deck,
swung myself over the railing
and tried the door. Which was locked,
of course. But I looked in just the same
at my desk, some papers, and my chair.
This was the window on the other side
of the desk where I’d raise my eyes
and stare out when I sat at that desk.
This is not like downstairs, I thought.
This is something else.

And it was something to look in like that, unseen,
from the deck. To be there, inside, and not be there.
I don’t even think I can talk about it.
I brought my face close to the glass
and imagined myself inside,
sitting at the desk. Looking up
from my work now and again.
Thinking about some other place
and some other time.
The people I had loved then.

I stood there for a minute in the rain.
Considering myself to be the luckiest of men.
Even though a wave of grief passed through me.
Even though I felt violently ashamed
of the injury I’d done back then.
I bashed that beautiful window.
And stepped back in.

“Locking Yourself Out, Then Trying to Get Back In,” by Raymond Carver, from Where Water Comes Together With Other Water (Vintage Books).

3 thoughts on “Locking Yourself Out, Then Trying to Get Back In

  1. I love Raymond Carver, his poetry and his stories. He’s definitely invited to my dinner party.

    This poem made me think about the time I was visiting my mother and step-dad in Arizona, and out of habit I locked both the door lock and the dead bolt when we left the house to go to dinner. Turned out I shouldn’t have locked the dead bolt because they had lost the key. . . I sure wish I would have had this poem to share with them then.


    1. I think he’d be an interesting dinner guest, for sure, especially if you could have drunk Carver and sober Carver at the same table.

      This struck a chord with me today bc the WordPress interview reminded me of my newly sober self when I was digging deeper into my self via my writing. The looking back at my life and feeling guilt for my past, much like I’m sure Carver did. That whole merging of past and present… Deciding now, now I’m ready to break into myself. No matter if it’s ugly or if I have to break a beautiful facade/window. And feeling gratitude for every little bit of every little thing.

      Um, yeah… Obviously I loved this one too. 🙂


Comments are closed.