carole king
A song in my key
by A. Garnett Weiss

The movie threw a spell over the art house
On screen: A riff off that phantom at the opera—
a damaged genius, rejected by his muse, becomes a monster
Clichés abounded, but desire and betrayal, the heat
in the lyrics, in the haunted melodies called to me

I felt bewitched by the guy who had brought me to the show
He’d seduced me away from my man
For twelve weeks
he’d given me a self I hadn’t known
One morning, he left my bed and disappeared

For weeks after that, I couldn’t breathe without crying
Every day brought rain
Empty and concussed, I stayed inside my two-room flat
as storms rattled the slate shingles
When the sun shone, I closed the blinds

It was Carole King who got me through
“You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
and show the world all the love in your heart,” she sang

I didn’t know what was left in my heart, of my heart
The love had been drained out of me the way blood
is drawn with a syringe

Still, each morning I put that record on the turntable
One day, I began to sing along

At last, the phone did ring
The man I’d left for the one who left me was on the line
His voice quiet, calm, each phrase ended
with an upswing, like a question

I remembered his hands on my skin
How he would look at me and no one else

He invited me to spend a day by a lake
I stalled, said I’d call back, sat in my tiny kitchen
till the old fashioned streetlight came on below the window
Then I listened to Carole again, to her promise
people would treat me better, I’d feel as beautiful as I am

And told him ‘yes’

IMAGE: Portrait of the author, from around the same time period as the poem.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For this series, I let my mind wander to wherever it would take me and was surprised that the songs which came to me were each connected to a different man at different times in my life. I hadn’t expected to revisit the circumstances captured in “A song in my key.” Returning there felt unwelcome at first but no longer. The song referred to in the poem is “Beautiful” by Carole King (1971).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Published in anthologies and chapbooks, online, and in local and national media, the author’s work has appeared using the pseudonym A. Garnett Weiss or under own name, JC Sulzenko. She served as poet-mentor for The Gryphon Trio’s “Listen up! Ottawa” project, sits on the selection board for Bywords, and is inaugural curator for The Glebe Report’s “Poetry Quarter.” Her books for families and children include Fat poems tall poems long poems small and What my Grandma means to say, launched at The Ottawa International Writers Festival. Visit her at