the curtain, thick, heavy tapestry

that it was, hangs shorn

like a bridal veil, a shroud.

rent from floor to ceiling,

it hangs listless on its wooden rod,

obsolete now, useless.

outside is the still greyness

of afternoon after rain.

the world is hushed yet,

as if anticipating another scene.

but existence goes on,

somehow. it must.

i bolt the shutters tight;

can’t let the damp sink in.

these four walls are all

i’ve ever known as mine,

though the plaster’s crumbled

and the bowed ribs show through.

i pace barefoot across the floor —

it’s rough and splintered,

but hardened my feet like leather.

i’ve worn a groove down

and don’t feel a thing.

the silence is stifling,

but the voices will start

soon enough again.

they never stay away

as long as i would wish.

but there — was that a sound?

no, surely not.

a rat, at the most.

no one has ever visited.

not once. not now.

yet, there it is again —

on the door, yes, surely

a knock. gentle, but firm.

and again it comes.

wh-who is it?

my voice is a croaking

whisper, unused to use.


a merry voice, rich, deep.

light? what could he mean?

it was a he, no mistaking.

but what type of name

was light? why mock me?

i am in no need of light, sir.

i am quite used to the dark.

there, that should show him.

yes, i know! came the voice.

how dare he? go away! i shrieked.

but then came another knock.

ugh, who do you think you are?


love? no one had ever spoken

kindly to me, let alone love.

a thrill went through my veins,

but i held myself quiet.

he would not fool me.

still, i stepped closer

to the door, thinking

i could catch a glimpse

through the knothole.

perhaps he was dangerous.

i don’t believe in love.

how can i believe something

i’ve never seen, never known?

if you opened the door,

you would see, and know.

and you might steal everything

i have left. wretched as it is.

decrepit though it seems,

it’s all i’ve ever known.

how can i give that up

for a madman outside

with a voice like thunder

and laughter? i won’t. i won’t!

go away! i cried, tears

welling in my eyes despite

my iron self-control.

i leaned my head against

the door, biting my lips

so the sobs couldn’t escape.

but he knocked again.

i could see thin shafts

of light streaming

through the cracked wood

under my fingers.

i could almost feel

the passion reverberating

through the boards.

what mystery is this?

who’s there? i whispered

afraid of what he might

say, yet longing to hear.

Life! he whispered back,

in a tone strangely wild yet calm.

life? life? how could he say

such a thing when i lived

in death itself? how could life

dare to stand outside

knocking incessantly

until i went mad? enraged

i flung open the door —

and then i saw him.

and i understood.