A Poem Called “Key”

This week, RedLily™ is honoured to showcase poet and creative writer Kimberly Peterson, who resides in a rural community just outside Ottawa, Ontario. Her captivating poem “Key” was inspired by a frightening personal experience after a busy 12-hour shift as a nurse. We hope you enjoy a poem called “Key”


Inspiration behind the poem

“I stayed late to make sure that the patients’ immediate needs were met before I left the nursing station; so I headed to the change room in the basement alone. It was here that I met three young men wandering around… I shooed them out of the building, only to see them later as I exited the building. This frightening encounter left an indelible mark on my feelings of safety that lasts to this day.” ~ Kimberly Peterson.



Three omega wolf cubs wearing defiance, baseball
caps backward, baggy pants, bulky chains securing
empty wallets, in the edgy interval
of peach-fuzz chins and croaking voices. I shoo
them out of the dingy hospital basement
on my way to the change room.

As I exit, the staff entrance door clicks
locked behind me. I see them illuminated
by the streetlight, circling,
a pack on the shore
waiting for their prey
to exhaust itself

Rummaging through my purse,
instead of my staff badge
which unlocks the door,
I find my key ring.

Ignoring the flutter of hummingbird
wings caged by my ribs, I stride
through them, chin up, shoulders square,
make it halfway to my car
before I hear feet
slapping closer, loud
as a beavertail striking pond water.

I spin around, keys protruding
from my clenched fist like talons.

They freeze mid-step,
turn to retreat in unison.

You’re effin brave when I’m facing you,
hurled at their backs as insurance.
Once locked in my car,
I quiver like birch leaves
in the evening breeze,

struggle to stem
the newsfeed stream
of alternate ugly endings

copper scent of blood,
crack of broken bones,
jagged gravel imbedded in wounds,
purple circling the black
centre of bruises spreading
across skin and confidence,

vividly supplied
by my nursing experience.

I imagine those teens
laughing at the harmless
only joking fun


years later
still can’t leave a building
without clutching keys
in my hand
the right hand,
the stronger one.


About the Author: Kimberly Peterson writes poetry and creative nonfiction. Her experience as a nurse working with chronically ill and palliative patients informs the grief, loss, resilience, and the joy of daily life she explores in the manuscript of poetry she’s working on. Read more of her work on


Editor’s note: Do you like to write poems, but don’t know where to share them? We are accepting poetry, photo essays, and creative artwork for upcoming issues. Email [email protected] for more info. Check out some more motivation submissions.