Ode to the Stairs by Andrea Witzke Slot


Rectangular boatplanks plopped, nestled, and nailed by builders now decades dead, foot-perpendicular-by-foot-perpendicular, like the staves of the somewhere-coffins of the three families that once moved up and down these same dropped beams of oak —families I never knew —children I never held —their echoed calls transposed into a music I cannot discern. Once my father and I spent an entire weekend moving in and out and under our home, trying to quell the noise that lived inside our days —the mice-like voices that breathed beneath our heavy feet. It worked. Mostly. But some nights I find myself plodding up and down the routes of what refuses to be silenced, finding in life’s reprises the diminutive effort of the slight sips of self we leave behind, and in the dark of 2am, as I climb the stairs with a child in my arms, I find myself stepping home  —just a place where being human means but one shared body and one pair of borrowed hands, holding one borrowed child, and then another, and then another, treading on the whiskered trace of all who came before  —the same ghost-mount of life’s routines  —the climbing up  —the clambering down   —the sleeping     —the waking   —the worry  —so much worry  —reduced to but a whisper that treads into dawn and the inexplicable longing that remains when we are no longer a body or hands or mothers or daughters  —until we too are but under-home notes released beneath slippered feet  —squeaking beams of daylight that love and even the most resolute labors could never erase.



Andrea Witzke Slot writes poetry, fiction, and academic work, sometimes mixing the three. She is the author of the poetry collection To find a new beauty (Gold Wake Press, 2012), and her work can be found or is forthcoming in such places as Southeast Review, Nimrod, Spoon River Poetry Review, Bellevue Literary Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and in academic books published by SUNY Press (2013) and Palgrave Macmillan (2014).