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/