Apr. 17, 2001
Locking Yourself Out, Then Trying to Get Back In
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Poem: "Locking Yourself Out, Then Trying to Get Back In," by Raymond Carver, from Where Water Comes Together With Other Water (Vintage Books).
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 a life, okay.
It was raining. The neighbors who had
a key were away. I tried and tried
the lower windows. Stared
inside the sofa, plants, the table
and chairs, the stereo set-up.
My coffee cup and ashtrays 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.
Worse 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.
It is the birthday of Nobel scientist Georges Kohler, born in Munich, Germany (1946). He co-invented one of the most important techniques of modern biochemistry: a method of forcing immune system cells to make pure antibodies against a chosen antigen. The cells are called monoclonal antibodies, and they can be used to diagnose disease organisms, and also to target specific body tissues with therapeutic agents.
It is the birthday of playwright and novelist Thornton Wilder born in Madison, Wisconsin (1897). His father was a newspaper editor and diplomat, and his family spent time in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Wilder taught school for a living until the success of his play Our Town made it possible for him to live from his writing alone. He won Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and drama: his novel, The Bridge Over San Luis Ray (1927); and the plays Our Town (1937) and The Skin of Our Teeth (1942).
It is the birthday of Isak Dinesen, born in Rungsted, Denmark (1885). She married her cousin, Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke, the twin brother of the man she really loved, when she was 29. They settled in Africa, where they had a coffee plantation in Kenya. They divorced seven years later, and she managed the plantation alone for 10 years. She wrote her first books in English: Seven Gothic Tales (1934), and Out of Africa (1937). Later she wrote in Danish, and translated her work into English herself. Other collections include Winter's Tales (1942) and Last Tales (1957).
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®