The Twelve Keys

by Christel Janssen

Your bundle of keys dangling on your jeans pocket
The sight of cool hard metal, clearly shaped
The sound a rhythmic promise on our walk
Digging deeper into my soft inside
Awakening trembling desire
a small earthquake, unannounced
The keys to all the water areas in
Holland All twelve of them, you said proudly
Like the keys to your fertility, I thought

On our walk through the carved out road
Carved out for centuries, with yellow caves underneath
I cannot; I cannot stay with you, I cannot melt together
You said, already traveling the long way home
You couldn’t leave this road
carved out for generation after generation
To kids, and wife, and house, and mortgage, and bills, and narrowness

But wind sweeps up dust, I said
My blood hungered for your nourishing bone beating next to me
Ready to pull out those black strings of reluctance
like needles from a sea urchin
To swallow your softness like oyster
Ready to pull you underwater

Deep in salt liquid
Of tears, you didn’t even know you had
That we even didn’t know we had
Deeper even
To beasts of no control
With many arms
Strangling each habit
Ready to release all those strings
I cannot, you said again, glistening saliva dripping from your lips

I have cast spells all my life
the birth of breath
The thunder of newness I call her
where black lines are the only things left on surface of white
Words formed in the power of her deepest voice
Like glass now cutting through your skin
Painfully sharp
Utterly transparent
Blood with your identity dripping out
Your throat, squeezed by words, a hand around it
Against what we are supposed to do
Against the dull blanket of lies covering your marriage
Against the trees in your heart preventing you to see the burning fire
Against the slow poison in your liver
Against the more subtle drumming in conch shell

Just enough air,
To now let your safety go
I don’t know how I did it.
The keys left in thin air.
and you stayed
I knew those world held power,
I knew they would present something so much greater
Then you lived and then I lived
You stayed
That night

The river came unexpectedly
Filled with your tense body
I held myself still
And, as spell began to do its thing
How wind sweeps up dust
You softened, and a protected layer weaved itself
And they all came out of you
All twelve of them
The little boy
The adolescent
The soldier
The serpent
The magician
The Destroyer
The hunter
The Gatherer
The creator
The protector
The father
And the one we couldn’t name

One by one, stepping out of you,
All to be acknowledged,
And we cried, in each other’s arms
As we felt the pain for centuries
Of all the ones
In every boy
Strangled by duty
Now all dancing on my white sheets
Under my low attic
In the soft light
We could see them
Your body trembled
And we made love without making love

You returned after three months
to my little town
Where you visited with kids and wife and car and your settled world
After an 8000 kilometer trip to Portugal
While I played with colored veils
The twelve keys returned
And Holland had water again

Ripple Photo by Julian Böck on Unsplash

Philip Brautigam
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