By Matthew Sweeney

Behind the door was another door
and behind that was another.

The first door was black, as befitted
a four-storey Georgian house
on a street shaded by oaks.

The second door was the grey
of the sky before rain.

The third door was blue, or blue-
green – let’s say cobalt – with a stiff
black wrought-iron handle

which took the shape of a mermaid
instead of a dog or a dragon.

Or the rattlesnake I expected
to rear up, hissing, at me
when I crossed the threshold.

No chime announced me.
No animal or person met me.

The corridor I looked down
was lined with male portraits.
The rugs had embroidered females.

The ghost of incense haunted
the air I hardly breathed.

I took a couple of half-steps
then stood there, listening.
I heard the portraits breathing

then, from some distant room,
a cuckoo clock cuckooing.

My smile turned into a cough
that echoed off the walls
and infiltrated the house.

The women on the first rug
were grinning at me.

All the eyes in the portraits
were turned my way.
I looked back at the door

heard the lock click, then beyond
another lock, then another.

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