David Wagoner

(5 June 1926 / Massillon, Ohio)

At The Door


All actors look for them-the defining moments
When what a character does is what he is.
The script may say, He goes to the door
And exits or She goes out the door stage left.

But you see your fingers touching the doorknob,
Closing around it, turning it
As if by themselves. The latch slides
Out of the strike-plate, the door swings on its hinges,
And you're about to take that step
Over the threshold into a different light.

For the audience, you may simply be
Disappearing from the scene, yet in those few seconds
You can reach for the knob as the last object on earth
You wanted to touch. Or you can take it
Warmly like the hand your father offered
Once in forgiveness and afterward
Kept to himself.

Or you can stand there briefly, as bewildered
As by the door of a walk-in time-lock safe,
Stand there and stare
At the whole concept of shutness, like a rat
Whose maze has been rebaffled overnight,
Stand still and quiver, unable to turn
Around or go left or right.

Or you can grasp it with a sly, soundless discretion,
Open it inch by inch, testing each fraction
Of torque on the spindles, on tiptoe
Slip yourself through the upright slot
And press the lock-stile silently
Back into its frame.

Or you can use your shoulder
Or the hard heel of your shoe
And a leg-thrust to break it open.

Or you can approach the door as if accustomed
To having all barriers open by themselves.
You can wrench aside
This unauthorized interruption of your progress
And then leave it ajar
For others to do with as they may see fit.

Or you can stand at ease
And give the impression you can see through
This door or any door and have no need
To take your physical self to the other side.

Or you can turn the knob as if at last
Nothing could please you more, your body language
Filled with expectations of joy at where you're going,
Holding yourself momentarily in the posture
Of an awestruck pilgrim at the gate-though you know
You'll only be stepping out against the scrim
Or a wobbly flat daubed with a landscape,
A scribble of leaves, a hint of flowers,
The bare suggestion of a garden.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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Comments about this poem (At The Door by David Wagoner )

  • Veteran Poet - 2,704 Points Terry Craddock (9/12/2014 4:46:00 PM)

    Decision Making Finale

    leave taking implies
    decision making finale
    from subtle to radical
    from trivial to incredible...

    with life implications
    set ranging throughout
    entire possible spectrums
    potent human experiences...

    doors swift
    slow opened closed
    defined...

    in consequence raising questions
    implying myriad possibilities
    when time entering exiting doors...


    Copyright © Terence George Craddock
    Inspired by the poem 'At The Door' by David Wagoner. (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 2,704 Points Terry Craddock (9/11/2014 7:01:00 PM)

    Well defined in raising questions implying myriad possibilities when exiting doors. (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 1,403 Points Kay Staley (9/11/2014 9:27:00 AM)

    If only this rhymed, then it would be good poetry! I like the paragraph that talks about pretending to see through the door and pretending that you dont need it. Speaks of independence and strength but yet gives all the options in the poem. The idea is good and relatable, but the beginning lacks substance to draw you in and the absence of rhyming puts it at a lower level than it deserves. (Report) Reply

    Veteran Poet - 2,704 Points Terry Craddock (9/11/2014 7:03:00 PM)

    Interesting but I believe good poetry need not rhyme, superior intensity may be obtained omitting inferior overdone rhymes. Just my opinion :)

  • Gold Star - 37,362 Points Aftab Alam Khursheed (9/11/2014 2:54:00 AM)

    Must open the door to enter in side tolerance (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 10,411 Points * Sunprincess * (5/30/2014 8:40:00 PM)

    .............at the door takes us to the point, where we need to make a decision....great write.... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 677 Points Muzaffer Akin (9/11/2013 11:58:00 PM)

    Congratulations, perfect. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 866 Points Liliana ~el (9/11/2013 10:43:00 PM)

    Beautiful! Perfectly and accurately portraying (describing) the mental thought process, emotions, and defining decisions which need to be made in life! ! ! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Carolyn Hall (9/11/2013 5:43:00 PM)

    Earning money online was never been easy as it has become for me now. Just visit the below mentioned link and you will know that earning at home from internet is not difficult. A little effort and handsome earning dream is just a click away, go home site tab for detai, , , www.bar17.com
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  • Rookie Michael Shepherd (3/18/2005 7:04:00 AM)

    So accurate a description of the magic moment of communication shared, revelation manifested...genius. (Report) Reply

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