Shut the Front Door
by Kelsey Bryan-Zwick

Shut the front door
& listen out the back
notice the sounds
of wind through the alley
distant gulls at the beach
a bamboo wind chime
in a neighbor’s yard
echo of children playing
hum of buses and cars,
foghorn, helicopter

Shut the front door
& look out the back
notice pair of house sparrows
building a nest, starlings
back in town for the season
mockingbird that knows
every car alarm good morning
song that there is, crows
and cooper’s hawk, the feathers
of a mourning dove,
red blood in the wet grass

Shut the front door
and notice out back
building-mates, going
to and from car garage
hauling loads of clothes
to and from shared
laundry machines, taking
out their trash and recycling
the big dumpster where
even now the clanking sounds
of cans being crushed
by hands feverish sorting
through the bins, trying to
find anything that might
improve upon what they have:
never enough to shelter
through a cold night

Shut the front door
& remember through the back
to sweet peas mother planted
six feet away from you, with gloves
and mask on, how the sprouts
are beginning to show, how
the squirrel will tease the cats
inside with you, cozy as aloe
soaking up April sun, as an
occasional cabbage white butterfly
or cloudy sulfur rushes through
like liberated flowers

Shut the front door
& fall through the back
imagine what else you might
know, what else would
could, and should
possibly be.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem started when I heard coughing in the echoey corridor of my building, and I called out to my partner, “Shut the front door!” and the realization that everything was changing washed over me. As a disabled person with mobility difficulties I was already in many ways having to live this new lifestyle we’re all becoming accustomed to, though this drastic, tragic change in atmosphere hits hard and in unexpected ways. For me turning away from the outside world let me explore this new “inside” world, as I gathered my thoughts and emotions, appreciating the place that I do have, even as the front door shifts from being an entry way, to being a defense to the outside world.  And so the poem, “Shut the Front Door,” unfolds.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Kelsey Bryan-Zwick is a Spanish/English speaking poet from Long Beach, California. Disabled with scoliosis from a young age, her poems often focus on trauma, giving heart to the antiseptic language of hospital intake forms. Author of Watermarked (Sadie Girl Press) and founder of the micro-press BindYourOwnBooks, Kelsey’s poems have been accepted by Spillway, Trailer Park Quarterly, Cholla Needles, Rise Up Review, Right Hand Pointing, Redshift, Making Up (a Picture Show Press anthology), and she will be Moon Tide Press’s Poet of the Month for May 2020.  Writing towards her new title, Here Go the Knives, find her at