Seattle poet Elizabeth Aoki creates some mystery around perfectly utilitarian words in her poem, "Padlock."
To celebrate Poetry Month, The Seattle Times is publishing one poem every day this week. This one, from Elizabeth Aoki’s debut chapbook, “Every Vanish Leaves Its Trace” (Finishing Line Press, 27 pp., $14, www.finishinglinepress.com), is an exercise not in wordplay, exactly, but word possibility. In Aoki’s hands, “padlock” becomes a protean term suggestive of weapons, sex, money, pride and more. In the end, as potent as the word is, it proves impossible to pin down. (Note: Aoki has written for The Seattle Times book pages.)
Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times arts writer
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The person who is fastest at getting out their padlock
often is decided to be master of the encounter.
Once a man had to choose between a bag of gold
and a bag of good padlock, and we all know
what happened to his testicles afterward.
A woman traded her children for padlock
and the men of the town realized
their beds were getting bigger
and filling up with lice.
One boy gambled he could take another boy’s padlock.
Caught together, naked and crying
they tussled and each had broken the other’s.
Dogs wouldn’t go near them after that.
— Elizabeth Aoki