A year ago, I climbed a stairway,
its railing cold like the palm of my late sister,
so I pulled my hand away –
it smelled like steel, like the
bed frame he lay in,
If I were a child, I’d be scared of falling
through the gaps to an untimely death.
But I was old.
I was scared of falling backwards,
of the unsightly heap
of sagging skin and bone
I’d leave at the base of the staircase.
(Mostly, I feared the questions
my out-of-state daughter would ask
should I have had the misfortune of surviving such an accident.
The feigned concern of nosy neighbors
and flowers I’d receive
as though already I were dead.)
When at last I reached the top,
I did not know it was the top.
There was nothing there,
no one to greet me, no bench for resting.
There was no door.
I fell, upwards,
toward a color I could not name,
a place I did not recognize.
The air parted as I stumbled into the sky
and the stars filled me up with their helium light,
kept me burning where I did not belong.
The staircase would not keep me, and I was scared.
There was no coming down.