I don’t think I can make it up this staircase although I’d rather
Be up there than down below with all the loose flesh of
Spiked eyes, wrathful in their breath, sobre in their sense-
Less words. I could push my way up against this damp
Plastered wall, with all its cracks and faultlines reaching
For the slip of hot blood that rushes through the nerves
Of their eyes. I could hold my tongue and never speak again
And only hope not to be spoken to, because speaking was
My first sin and I’ve never gotten past it. I could get
On my knees and push my bag of snapping twigs up
Across each plateau until my legs are sore with boredom.

But do I really want to be up there, with those sexless
Lotusmouths that spew love like it’s a prize? God knows
Love is a fight and no one ever wins until they’ve given
Everything they’ve got and come up short, because love
Isn’t what you say, it’s what you can’t.

Maybe I’ll wait here and rest my head against the
edges, and bear the dull ache of its refusal like
String around my fingertips, and rest my hand across
Its shoulder to wait for some desperate fool to
Pass over me and excuse himself by crying out,
‘I’m sorry to be in a hurry but the slowpokes get
The guillotine and my skin is far too sensitive
To bear the weight of something that has crushed
So many a good man before me, I’m sorry.’

Maybe these steps will move and shrug me off if
I stay here long enough, or maybe the wood will
Rise from its open grave to engulf me in its arms and
The thorns and grass and leaves will capsize my body
Until it rests in some deep sleep of history books
Where the restless millions scamper to claim everything
They’ve lost, but I will be here, on this great, kind
Staircase until it shrugs me off.


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