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

mortified remembering

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/

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Sacred Services

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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