Mark Doty
Gates of the Temple

Brief spells, over the course of months:
she no longer recalled the names of her daughters
and felt sure that her own mother — gone decades now – 
was on a train,  on the way, if only she knew at which station…  
Then, standing over the washing machine, pouring in a cup of fabric softener 
(gesture she knew so well the cup seemed to fill itself, fill again),
she looked at her husband of all those years with a sudden shyness.
Did he know then or later she had forgotten him? 
I would be afraid to ask, it would be terrible to ask.
My friend tells a story, in one of his essays: how he met a man 
in one of the gone movie houses in Times Square, where desire played 
almost freely. The object of the seeker’s adoration: running shoes. 
                                  Or, more exactly, 
the shoes were gates without which the temple could not be entered.  
My friend wanted to be kind — he’d seen the man often — 
so when he needed new sneakers he said — they’d never spoken — 
Is there a special kind you like? Stricken, his longing wrenched 
into too bright a light,  the man could hardly — he whispered, 
as though through a throat half-closed, Light blue,
and he fled. 
              So Chip bought sky-blue sneakers,
but do I need to tell you? The one who’d spoken
was too stripped or shamed to take pleasure in what
naming his desire had brought him.
 There’s a man in the house, the woman would say 
to the neighbors later, I don’t know, he moved in. But that afternoon, 
when she admired him until she had no idea how many cups 
of flowery blue she’d emptied into the laundry, 

he took the cup out of her hands and lifted her,
nearly carried her into the bedroom,  and though only one of them 
had forgotten the other, they made love with the fierce curiosity 
of two who have just met.

Found In Volume 39, No. 03
Read Issue
  • mark doty
Mark Doty
About the Author

Mark Doty is the author of three memoirs and twelve books of poetry, most recently Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins, 2008), which received the National Book Award; School of the Arts (2005); Source (2002); and Sweet Machine (1998).