Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

The Gate

by Ron Salisbury

At the back stairs to heaven the gatekeepers
are the dogs you’ve owned. They decide.

At the first landing sit your ex wives
swatting flies with folded newspapers,

the ones with your obituary. Because
the front door is undoubtedly locked,

this is the only way in. And it’s always
too late to reconsider what the dogs

may be thinking, not to discount the plenary
considerations of ex wives who’ve had a chance

to compare notes. Harken, you poor living saps,
consider a few of the steps they teach

at those meetings, especially the ones
where you ask forgiveness and give yourself

over to a higher power or at least over to the dog
you now own who may put in a good word at the door

or maybe the current wife who asks you to hang up
the bath mat, bring home milk, put down the toilet seat.


—Selected for Honorable Mention in the competition for the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize 2016, and first published in the San Diego Poetry Annual 2016-17 (Garden Oak Press, February 2017); appears here with permissions from both poet and publisher.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury