Published on Academy of American Poets (

Won Exit

In one or two lives 
I opened the door with the prize
only to find the prize was not worth the life.
I wanted the door.
Brave mahogany door, you be my fortune.
Teach me to understand the jungle cry 
in your grain, the suffering circles 
by which your tree wisdom is known.
I was superior with handles,
gentle with thresholds. Then, this.
Choices at morning hours I usually skip
but there is a little cash flow of beauty
where there is almost no more water.
And there is not room and light enough
to stand behind the second 
and listen anymore—
I am going through the language of me now.
I am flipping open the dictionary of myself
with my tongue, as if that were possible,
to find your first word. 
In the torture of a foyer 
doorless for entering, I am entering none.


Copyright © 2017 by Elizabeth Metzger. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 24, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“‘Won Exit’ came to me verbatim in sleep, and I groggily typed and lineated it at 4 a.m. on my phone. After a placental abruption kept me bedridden for nearly my whole pregnancy, life still feels like a series of nearly impossible entrances and exits. I think this poem arises from that experience, as well as from the species-deep urgency I feel after communicating with my infant son all day: to invent language, to learn to speak again.”
—Elizabeth Metzger


Elizabeth Metzger

Elizabeth Metzger is the author of The Spirit Papers (University of Massachusetts Press, 2017). 

Date Published: 2017-10-24

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