what is the what

May 28, 2010 at 5:50 pm (Uncategorized) ()

We had a very interesting challenge for this week’s Poetry Bus (visit here for more passengers); to take a sentence (at random or specially chosen), remove half, create new endings and then play about with the ideas that came from it. I started trawling through quotations looking for something clever. Then I looked at famous opening lines of books, still nothing. So I picked up the book I had recently started reading, it is called ‘What is the What’ by Dave Eggers and took the opening sentence, as soon as I read it I felt it had interesting possibilities. The sentence I started with is “I have no reason not to answer the door so I answer the door”.

I have no reason not to answer the door

I have no reason not to answer the door

even though it is late

and I had been waiting

my fingers pause at the latch

and I am scared.

I have no reason not to answer the door

where two shadowy figures

one tall

made taller by his hat

are visible through the frosted glass

waiting impassively.

I have no reason not to answer the door

but in that pause

in the silence of the hall

I can hear the rush of my own breathing

and the blood pounding in my ears.

I have no reason not to answer the door

that stands firm and solid

between me

and the world outside

but I take a step away.

I have no reason not to answer the door

through which I can hear

the scuffle of their boots in the gravel

and the muted murmur of conversation.

I have no reason not to answer the door

except something urgent tells me

I should stay here and now

on this side

in this suspended moment


I have no reason not to answer the door

but something hovers outside


I have no reason not to answer the door

when they knock again

it feels impolite

to keep them


I have no reason not to answer the door

so I breath again

reach up

and grip the handle firmly

I have no reason not to answer the door

so I answer the door.



  1. Bill said,

    Very effective! The refrain is kind of psychologically gripping. Plath meets Hitchcock. It has a tense, “stuck record” feeling about it. Good one.

  2. karen said,

    Really nice and I know and understand the reason not to open the door!

  3. Gwei Mui said,

    Very atmospheric, the way you maintain the suspense.

  4. Gwei Mui said,

    Very impressive, you maintain the suspense and menace through out.

  5. Rachel Fox said,

    ‘What’ is such a great book!
    I like the way you repeat the first half in this (I ditched mine..).

  6. 6512 and growing said,

    Poetry is brave; you do it well.

  7. Pete said,

    I know the instruction was to ditch the first half of the sentence but poetry should ignore rules and this is why!! What a great poem – the double negative building up the unease to a crescendo until the reader screams Don’t answer that effin door!! Masterfully constructed!!

  8. the watercats said,

    agreed about the suspense in this poem.. I feel a bit sick with the underlying terror! marvellouse!

  9. Titus said,

    Completely in agreement with Pete – a real tour-de-force of a poem, and held me totally in the moment, and almost as one with the “I” of the poem. I love the simplicity of the language used so effectively.
    Also took my mind to occasions when I’ve been one of the people on the other side of the door, with the death message. So it was very affecting for me. Don’t mean to reduce the poem to one interpretation; it is much, much bigger than that.
    Super job.

    • crazyfieldmouse said,

      This time last year a good friend lost her teenage son in an accident and that was part of what was going through my mind as I thought about fear of the outside world.
      thanks for all the encouraging comments

  10. Niamh said,

    Really gripping stuff, couldn’t look away for a second. Brilliant

  11. Enchanted Oak said,

    Wow. What you’ve done here is wonderful, frightening, and emotionally effective. I didn’t want you to answer the door.
    I’m with the others who find that good menace in the repetition of the first line. Impressive work, mouse.

  12. Poetikat said,

    You have beautifully captured the paranoia of the situation. I love the “made taller by his hat” line for some strange reason.


  13. http://weaverofgrass.blogspot.com said,

    Fantastic poem cfm – very scary too – I think you have achieved this by that repetitive line which is very impressive. Hope you will jump on the bus next Monday (June 7) when I am in the driver’s seat.

  14. Jeanne said,

    Suspense! Mystery! I love it!

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