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The Stairs

The stairs are neither going up nor coming down.
This could be done if done slowly.
She puts the left foot down and then the right,
coming to rest on each step, each little stage.
Ah, she has arrived again on this small platform.
She grips the rail with her left hand,
the palm of her right hand flat on the close wall.
The stairway is really a hallway.
So many times she has gone down and come up.
This could be done if done slowly.
And carried. In the early days one foot to each step,
the skirt flouncing, a list in her head,
the jar to get, the jar of summer caught
in its own steeped syrup.
What was it she wanted now,
each step a pause?
Children. She had heard them overhead,
their quick scuttle when she had clothes to move,
the little bodies of the clothes
returned again and again up the stairs
into the everyday heaven to be dirtied.
This could be done if done slowly,
down, easing down, the cool musk rising to her,
and each step a rest,
each one a chance to catch her breath,
to steady and study ankle and wrist,
those necessary narrows,
how many times had she passed through,
taken down and brought up?
This could be done if done slowly,
the hitch and get along, the small-time arriving-at
learned through the years,
the saved, the preserved,
glass jars with their goods like lanterns aglow,
this could be done.

Michael Chitwood

The Threepenny Review

Winter 2012

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