Open Sesame by Norma DaCrema

Open Sesame (or, Ruminations on Nathalie Gribinski’s painting “Ali Baba’s Cavern”)
by Norma DaCrema
In Ali Baba’s Cave 
at Enchanted Forest 
when I was eight, 
we rode in boats, 
lurching in the dark, 
jostling strangers, 
sniffing hungrily at the mystery, 
like the moral of that old story 
no one could ever find. 

Maybe it was mostly mildew 
we smelled on the slimy bottom 
of our boat, rounding the turns 
through a shadowy sequence 
of turbaned mannequins, props 
and placards, a dumbed-down 
tale unfolding in the darkness. 
We rode it over and over, though 

absent was dismembered Cassim 
immortalized in my illustrated 
Ali Baba Golden Book, his bloody stumps 
weeping on the cavern floor, 
the brutal cost of blanking on the charm 
of the sesame–how the ripened pod 
will burst apart, shattering, 
scattering its seeds. 

And absent was Morgiana, blithe bearer 
of the boiling oil poured into narrow 
necked earthenware jugs, where forty thieves, 
improbably flexible, marinate in the courtyard. 
But what has any of that to do with Gribinski’s “Cavern”? 
Her colors and shapes and patterns in profusion, 
like a deconstructed nursery chest of toys, all richness and possibility, 
through an open door–our first glimpse of the treasure, sparkling 
in the sunlight streaming in, 
more than enough pieces for a thousand happy endings.

Hear Norma DaCrema recite the poem on the Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast:

Five Poets Recite (Nathalie Kuroiwa-Lewis, David Holper, Connor Simons, Norma DaCrema, Linda Drattell) Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast

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Norma DaCrema is a teacher at a Pennsylvania girls’ high school. A May 2022 graduate of Arcadia University’s MFA program in Creative Writing, she has published or has work forthcoming in The Lyric, The Night Heron Barks, Ovunque Siamo, Common Ground Review, and Red Fern Review, among others. She lives with her son and a small slew of cats.

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