The door had a double lock, and the joke was on me. You might call it protection against self, this joke, and it wasn’t very funny: I kept the door locked in order to think twice. The room itself: knickknacks, chairs, and a couch, the normal accoutrements. And yet it was an empty room, if you know what I mean. I had a ticket in my head: Anytime, it said, another joke. How I wished I had a deadline to leave the empty room, or that the corridor outside would show itself to be a secret tunnel, perhaps a winding path. Maybe I needed a certain romance of departure to kick in, as if I were waiting for magic instead of courage, or something else  I didn’t have. No doubt you’re wondering if other people inhabited the empty room. Of course. What’s true emptiness without other people? I thought twice many times. But when I left, I can’t say I made a decision. I just followed my body out the door, one quick step after another, even as the room started to fill  with what I’d been sure wasn’t there.
—Stephen Dunn, “Leaving the Empty Room”
Painting Credit Paul Winstanley

The door had a double lock, 
and the joke was on me. 
You might call it protection 
against self, this joke, 
and it wasn’t very funny: 
I kept the door locked 
in order to think twice. 
The room itself: knickknacks, 
chairs, and a couch, 
the normal accoutrements. 
And yet it was an empty room, 
if you know what I mean. 
I had a ticket in my head: 
Anytime, it said, another joke. 
How I wished I had a deadline 
to leave the empty room, 
or that the corridor outside 
would show itself 
to be a secret tunnel, perhaps 
a winding path. Maybe I needed 
a certain romance of departure 
to kick in, as if I were waiting 
for magic instead of courage, 
or something else  
I didn’t have. No doubt 
you’re wondering if other people 
inhabited the empty room. 
Of course. What’s true emptiness 
without other people? 
I thought twice many times. 
But when I left, I can’t say 
I made a decision. I just followed 
my body out the door, 
one quick step after another, 
even as the room started to fill  
with what I’d been sure wasn’t there.

Stephen Dunn, “Leaving the Empty Room”

Painting Credit Paul Winstanley

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