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The Wallpaper Door

by John W. Sexton



The wallpaper door rolls open down the wall;
a corridor of mould stretches deep into shadow.
She enters with her child in her arms, her face
veiled with fatigue. The wallpaper door closes.

The wall is full of conversations, old as damp.
They creep into her mind. Her child begins to cry;
his tears are red strings falling down his face.
"Give me your tears, my lovely," comes a voice.

Deep in the wall is an old woman. The old woman
has three heads. The head on the right is fast asleep
on its shoulder; the head on the left is reading a book.
The head in the middle says, "Give me your tears."

The mother pulls the red strings from her child's eyes
and they break free. The strings are scarlet.
She hands them to the old woman, but the old woman
has no free hand; for one is asleep and one is holding a book.

"Feed me your tears, my lovely" says the head          
in the middle. The mother feeds the scarlet string
into the old woman's mouth. The head in the middle
says, "yum, yum, yum", and falls asleep, flopping down.

The head on the right wakes up. "Who fed me tears
of red, red string? Who entered the wallpaper door?
Who steps unbidden in my house of paste,
who treads upon my floor?"

The child stops its snivelling; it appears to notice
the old woman's three heads for the first time,
the head in the middle lolling in sleep.
The child begins to laugh, claps his hands.

The child's laughter comes out as lozenges
of light. The space behind the wall is lit up.
The mother sees clearly now that the three-headed
hag has golden skin. Her nails are white like shell.

The old woman raises her right hand,
and the head on the right says, "Give me
your laughter, my lovely." The child laughs again,
and the old woman balances a laugh in her hand.

In the bright body of the laugh appears a city,
its sky bright as the glitter of the sea.
The head on the left says, "Inside us
we carry our futures; inside us is the world."

These words are written in the book that she
is holding. The mother realises that the head
on the left is reading out loud. The lozenges of laughter
begin to join up; fit into each other's sides.

The room is as bright as the glitter of the sea.
The head on the left falls asleep, her book drops
to the ground. The head on the right closes its eyes. Soon
the three-headed hag is snoring. The child laughs more.

The woman and her child step into the bright laughter.
The walls dissolve, the apartment dissolves, the building
fades. The woman and her child are in the street. She feels
sunlight on her skin and intuits for the first time

that sunlight is as ancient as creation; and in the touch
of that sunlight she takes a step inside herself.

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