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,

also cold.


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.


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