After the storm, in an old hotel, I opened
the closet door only to find it was not a closet,
but a stairway leading
to a dark basement that was not just an unlit basement,
but one with no light switch or string to pull on,
and I said, oh, shit, because that open-mouthed blackness
swam up at me as if it were a waiting, breathing thing.
Things like this return you to childhood terrors,
your lists of nights
too large to comprehend
that just had to be endured.
I closed that door, locked its little gold nipple
and turned away, a delicious fear rippling across my shoulders.
I asked for another room, one with a shallow closet, shadows
only of an arm’s length. The manager avoided my eyes
when she gave me the new key, and I wondered
if the barrier between us
was my shame or her guilt,
twin ghosts that never die.