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ISSUE:  Summer 2007

Lower floor. And it’s all about
standing there at a bus stop with maybe
my fidgety brother, or alone, years
before, years of no car, when living
in a city meant patience, repeatedly
looking up the street. Without metaphor now,
I’m here, on the linoleum
of the great university, looking up
at numbers going red
and ascending. And that sound—wind tunnel
in the wall, this thing of vertical passage
between realms, between where I am
and where I must, between here and up there
on another floor where people
open envelopes right into the trash,
nodding I know exactly what
you mean, people meaning to tell
a roomful that Henry James was a genius
of the edgy compound sentence, ditto
Jane Austen of those big
houses, low fire in the grate
lost, after the fact, occasional
ticker tape floating lightly to earth
on the English countryside.
Third floor. Fourth. Every stop
stops to the buzz of a fake floor
flush to the real floor rooted
on girders, the door opening to disgorge—
to disrobe, my brother might have said. Entry
into the next world for whatever stalwart
travelers come so far or so slightly,
straight up or straight down. And now it’s
down. It’s coming down slowly
and slowly. I have time.
I can lean my forehead
against the cool metal: this
blip, sweet riff off the main music,
arteries and veins
in that darkness, rush
and pull of something saved from
Thick ropy wires with never
enough give to move without bolting, this start
and stop that will be legend one day: there once was
a thing called an elevator. And the odd
graphic on the computer screen
will show a few strangers crowding
the smallest room
in the building, looking straight ahead,
shuffling sideways to make space
for the young woman, the exhausted
baby in her arms, child who
cries with such spirit. I hear it now, my ear
against the closed doors, something
unearthly, not human yet,
filtering down the shaft, distant
such weeping, the way stars
are muffled on cloudy nights
then reveal themselves, barely
who they were
so many light-years ago.


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