Michael Fraser

Latchkey by Michael Fraser

Too green to know we were poor,
I fed the coyote growling inside me
with change from phone booths.
I remember how I unlatched doors with
the side edge of a fresh hockey card,
the way summer sat in my dust-filled fro
abbreviated by the key shoe-stringed 
under my catchpenny polyester shirts.
I didn’t know there was another way to be. 
The last time I swiped a bag of corn chips
I unknowingly dashed past the store holder.
How he slapped the profile off my face,
the way fever kick-drummed and flamed
my cheek. I never stole again.
I still think of that time I parted the door
for the exterminator after I said my parents
weren’t home, and the way his gaze 
quickly populated the skeletal walls and 
fumbled into fridge-hidden corners before
heading out seconds later to the rat-scented 
hallway and into my past.
How I thinned into an even thinner 
apartment unaware it was my first chess 
game with the reaper, and not knowing 
I was lucky to have won. 

Nancy Jo Cullen on “Latchkey”

In “Latchkey,” the picture of childhood innocence is unsettled by the simmering threat that roils through the poem. Here, the nostalgia and naiveté that often shape poems about childhood have been weaponized against the speaker, the latchkey kid. “Latchkey” rejects wistfulness as the reader is brought to a sinking understanding of the perils the unsupervised child has survived.


(update provided in 2023) Michael Fraser is published in Best Canadian Poetry in English 2013 and 2018. He has won numerous awards, including Freefall Magazine’s 2014 and 2015 poetry contests, the 2016 CBC Poetry Prize, the 2018 Gwendolyn Macewen Poetry Competition, and the League of Canadian Poets’ 2022 Lesley Strutt Poetry Prize.

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