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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:

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