The Poet’s Staircase


Honor Moore

He hadn’t yet parked on the hill
with the rest of us. I would have
noticed the red car, it was square,
so odd, then it occurred to me
he must still park where we all once
lived, straight on past the new left turn,
he’s that nostalgic: all the old
films he knows each character of,
musical clips we watched tonight,
recumbent chorus girls, their heads
encircled make a core, long legs
opening, closing like shears
as he tells each year of release,
each girl vanishing, screen going black,
lit-up violins, ropes of them
swoop, untwisting, a lone cello
pulses, the entire screen’s
a black-eyed singer, then giant
lips, he tells us her name, recounts
filmography, obscurity,
fast camera pulling back until
all that’s left is a dot of light.

He does park in the past, he says
when I ask, then he climbs those stairs,
it’s so much closer to the place
we live now, you will see, but night
scares me, so I park on the hill
and walk up, which takes so long
he’s there when I pass the stairway,
red car, door opening, he moves
in carlight like a trapped moth, door
closing, he rounds the darkened car,
climbs slowly, startled to see me.
I lost my nerve, I say. Just keep
on past the turn, he says, until
you see that dumpster, and he points
to it, rising in shadow where
the next night I’ll climb and look down,
my bare pale legs taking each
stair, street fluorescence silvering,
where through a crack in the asphalt,
crabgrass circlets, Queen Anne’s lace.