On nights when the moon seems impenetrable—
a locked porthole to space;
when the householder bars his windows
and doors, and his dog lies until dawn,
one jeweled eye open; when the maiden sleeps
with her rosy knees sealed tightly together,
on such nights the safecracker sets to work.
Axe . . . Chisel . . . Nitroglycerin . . .
Within the vault lie forty thousand
tons of gold; the heaped up spoils
of Ali Baba's cave; the secrets of the molecule.
He sands his fingertips
to feel the subtle vibrations
of wheel lining up, just so, with wheel.
His toolmarks are his fingerprints.
And now a crack appears on the side
of the egg, a single fault line,
and within: the golden yolk just waiting.
A kind of wind . . . a door flies open . . . a glitter
of forsythia forced out of the branch.
With smoothest fingertips you touch
the locked cage of my ribs . . . just so.
My knees fall open. And Cleopatra smiles,
whose own Egyptians first invented the lock.
Linda Pastan, "The Safecracker" from The Imperfect Paradise, published by W.W. Norton & Company. Copyright © 1988 by Linda Pastan. Permission granted by the author through the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Inc.
Source: Carnival Night: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998 (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1998)