Poem of the Month
The elevator’s secret
Jostling together with literacy conference
women dedicated to midwifing
equality in language education
riding down to breakfast
we stopped at floor five
I felt their unconscious, silent holding of breath
as the opening of doors revealed
a young black man waiting to board,
facing frozen white women with
instinctively tightened down bodies, bent
minutely forward, prepared.
The young professional, paused mid step
cautiously looked up, facing us with
a smile Good Day, assuring us
we were not in danger.
My heart still echoes with shame
he knew he must enact this scandalous
ritual with white women again and again. He knew
what to do, too many times he’d crossed
this secret unspoken border of fear,
he knew the fact would be denied if pointed to,
they know not what they do...
As he stepped into the chasm between him and us,
I wanted to break the tension, point to it
make us concede, be ashamed at ourselves,
bridge the painful dishonor between our ideals
and learned patterning in our muscles.
My brain screamed, think of something!
as the doors whispered open and he was out,
my opportunity to change the world slipped
out behind him in his gentle downdraft.
It was hushed as we stepped out, they knew
something had happened with that man
but not what.
Sharon Lopez Mooney, “The elevator’s secret”, From Adelaide Literary Magazine International, VI #44, ed. Stevan V. Nikolic, New York / Lisbon, January 9, 2021, print and online: http://adelaidemagazine.org/2021/01/09/something-is-hiding-by-sharon-lopez-mooney/
In the Basement of the Goodwill Store
Ted Kooser 1939 -
In musty light, in the thin brown air
of damp carpet, doll heads and rust,
beneath long rows of sharp footfalls
like nails in a lid, an old man stands
trying on glasses, lifting each pair
from the box like a glittering fish
and holding it up to the light
of a dirty bulb. Near him, a heap
of enameled pans as white as skulls
looms in the catacomb shadows,
and old toilets with dry red throats
cough up bouquets of curtain rods.
You’ve seen him somewhere before.
He’s wearing the green leisure suit
you threw out with the garbage,
and the Christmas tie you hated,
and the ventilated wingtip shoes
you found in your father’s closet
and wore as a joke. And the glasses
which finally fit him, through which
he looks to see you looking back—
two mirrors which flash and glance—
are those through which one day
you too will look down over the years,
when you have grown old and thin
and no longer particular,
and the things you once thought
you were rid of forever
have taken you back in their arms.
Ted Kooser, “In the Basement of the Goodwill Store” from One World at a Time. Copyright © 1985 by Ted Kooser. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, www.upress.pitt.edu. Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.
Though Kooser, a Pulitzer Prize Poet, does not consider himself a regional poet, altho his work often takes place in a recognizably Midwestern setting. When Kooser was named US Poet Laureate in 2004, he was described by the librarian of Congress as “‘the first poet laureate chosen from the Great Plains.”
David Mason wrote, “Kooser has mostly made short poems about perception itself, the signs of human habitation, and the uncertainty of human knowledge & accomplishment He is a great American Poet.
Sharon Lopez Mooney, published poet, Interfaith Minister, spiritual coach
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