The Door to the Land

Before the door to the Land stands a gatekeeper
          on guard. The hoards gather outside
          the wall; they rush the gate, seeking
          admittance, each a man, woman, child,
displaced and homeless.

"Entry, sentry?" they cry, "Is it possible?"

"It is. It is," replies the keeper of the wall gate,
          "but not at the moment.
          You must wait for permission."
His voice is coarse and matter-of-fact, like his face.

Those closest crane their necks to peer through
          the open door, to see what is on the other side.

"Try to enter if you dare," taunts the gatekeeper.
          "I am large. I am powerful, and I am not alone.
          I am but one of many. And the doors beyond
          this one are legion. You might think
          the Land should be accessible, but it is not
                    for you to think."

He holds up the barrel of his large and ominous gun
          to keep them away.

The crowd murmurs and presses close.

"Wait!" shout the ones being crushed against the wall
          and the gun. "We will wait for permission."

Helicopters drop loaves and fishes in baskets
          among those who wait and blankets for them
          to sit on. But there are not enough loaves and fishes,
          for the multitude. There are not enough blankets.

But they wait. They murmur and press.

"Let's make a list since there are so many of us,
          and the door to the Land is so small," suggests one man.

So they make a list, and some of them go away
          to find rest and food and shelter,
          to assuage crying children, tend the old and sick.

There is talk among those who remain;
          even the hoarse voice of the gate-keeper is heard.
Still there is no permission. There is only waiting
          and more waiting.

More people come seeking entrance, wishing
          to be put on the precious list, which grows
          longer and more crowded by the day. The hours
          pass, days pass. There are no more loaves
          and fishes. The blankets are tattered or wet
          or soiled or stolen. There is still only waiting.

Those who wait bring gifts--family heirlooms,
          coins and jewelry stashed against future need,
          even bits of precious food--to the gatekeeper.

The gatekeeper is grateful. These things
          pile up around him in a frenzy of accumulation.

"What of our list," asks one man. "When will
          our turn come?"

"Oh, the list is well," answers the gatekeeper.
          "I know nothing about turns."

"Tell us about the Land," clamors another.

"I know nothing of the Land myself," replies the gatekeeper.
          "I only know I must do what I do."

"What is it that you must do?" they demand.

"What do you think? I must guard the gate
          to the Land," he retorts.

"But why is it that the list gets longer,
          but no one goes through the gate?" they ask.

"Perhaps," suggests the gatekeeper, "this
          is the wrong door for you."

"What?" shout the men.

"Don't you know there is a right door
          and a wrong door?" says the gatekeeper
          importantly. "Perhaps this is not
          the right door for you."

"So," suggest the voices, "there are other doors?"

"I believe there are other doors, though I don't
          know them," admits the gatekeeper. "I only
          know this door."

"How can we know if this is the right door
          for us," demand the crowd.

"That is not my problem. My problem is merely
          to guard this door," rejoins the gatekeeper.

"Where are these other doors of which you speak?"
the crowd further demand, beginning again to press.

Raising his gun to keep them back, the gatekeeper
          replies, "How should I know? I told you,
          I know only this door."

One angry voice rises above the others, "Let us in
          you buffoon." There were mutters and even
          shouts of approval.

Immediately the crowd become belligerent,
          the gatekeeper puffs up to twice his size,
          his hoarse voice booming over the crowds
          of pitiful people, straggly women, crying
          children, the sick and dying, the dirty and

"I am the doorkeeper. This is my door.
          It is not permissible for you to enter here
                    —Today," he roars.

Still riled up, the crowd insists, "When,
          then, can we enter?"

"It is not for me to say," answers the gate-
          keeper returning to his normal size.
          "It is not for me to decide."

"Then, why must we wait endlessly
          for someone who does not even know us
          to decide our fate?" they gripe.

The gatekeeper looks at them with
          some confusion, "You do not have
          to wait. You are choosing to wait
          and to call me names and to threaten
          my position. But I tell you, you may call me
          names, and you may threaten me,
          and you may wait, but you will not
          get through this door until it is decided.

"But you do not have to do any of these things.
          Remember, no one has asked you
          to come here. No one has made you stand
          at the door and wait."

"But," they remind him, "you have said it is possible
          for us to enter here. You have taken
          our most valuable goods. Surely, that
          must count for something?"

"I am grateful for your gifts," he admits.
          "Bribes," mutters someone under his breath.
"But," the gatekeeper continues, "I ask you for nothing,
          save only that you wait in a civil manner until
          permission to enter is granted."

"But," voices again rise in outrage and frustration,
          "when will that happen?"

"That," says the gatekeeper, "I do not know. It is not
          for me to know. But you are free. You, unlike me,
          may come and go. You can always go to another
          door, or you can go on vacation to the Bahamas."

"Ha," laughs one man sardonically, "and what
          would happen to you, sir doorkeeper,
          if we all left?"

The gatekeeper shakes his shaggy head, "I would
          certainly be lonely."

"Is that why you hold out the hope of possibility to us?
          Why you insist on keeping a list that taunts us
          with the future?" inquires another man.

"You misunderstand," reminds the gatekeeper,
          "I did not invite you here. I did not insist that you stay.
          I did not initiate the list. I do nothing but guard
          the gate, night and day."

In frustration, the men who hear him
          throw up their hands and turn away
          deciding to leave this place, where
          obviously there is no hope, except
          for this made-up hope of the gatekeeper.

Surely, there is another door, as he suggests
          with a more sympathetic gatekeeper.

They try to make their way through the throngs
          at their back, only to find they can not.
          The people wishing to enter the gate to the Land
          have been gathering and gathering
          over the days and weeks and months
          behind them.

CORDELIA HANEMANN, writer and artist, currently co-hosts Summer Poets, a poetry critique group in Raleigh, NC. She has published in Atlanta Review, Southwestern Review, and California Review; in numerous anthologies including best-selling Poems for the Ukraine and her chapbook. Her poems have been performed by the Strand Project, featured in select journals, won awards and been nominated for Pushcarts. She is now working on a novel.