Behind the Gate

“Have you really been
behind the gate?”

Yes, I say, full with the pleasure of
a secret.

They wait

They wait

to hear.
Some eyes are round with wonder;
some squint, unsure if they should believe.
Their imaginings include
celebrities murderers runaways princesses
magic.

It is a big gate
in a small town made huge
with imagination.

How to explain
that what’s really there,
behind the gate,
is greater than even the realities in their heads.

“There is a magic forest,”
I start to say.
But get stuck.
They won’t believe
that there are creatures in the woods.
A yellow brick road, of daffodils.
A room that has no walls,
just colors,
oranges
yellows.

It is a Mad Hatter place for
the grownups become children, laughing wildly,
and the children become grownups,
or what we believe grownups to be,
sharing our grand ideas of the world as everyone listens.

Not listens,
believes.

Anything can be real there.
In the kitchen, Joy explains that we mustn’t be afraid
of fairies or ghosts.
Jay is quieter, but explains,
with his food and drink and peaceful smile,
that we mustn’t be afraid
of happiness.
Jack presides over it all–
the ponies and parties and pretty people–
and explains that we mustn’t be afraid
of the truth:
That even though we are children, always told
to quietdownsettledownsitdowncalmdown,
we must live up to the fact that we’re
exceptional
beautiful
even brilliant.

Only as an adult do I learn
that few people
want that for others.

How paradoxical
that children think with such clarity
but are told they know nothing,
while adults think in metaphors
just to make sense of something.

The easy metaphor
for what’s behind the gate
is Gatsby,
with his mysteries
and his majestic parties.
But what’s behind the gate is much truer
and rarer
than that:
Love.

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