Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Riding the Elevator into the Sky

This poem was on The Writer's Almanac today.  I had never read it before, and it took my breath away.

I am dedicating it to two readers who have become friends, Rodak and Ex-New Yorker, because I think they will like it, even though Ex-New Yorker doesn't like poetry.


As the fireman said:
Don't book a room over the fifth floor
in any hotel in New York.
They have ladders that will reach further
but no one will climb them.
As the New York Times said:
The elevator always seeks out
the floor of the fire
and automatically opens
and won't shut.
These are the warnings
that you must forget
if you're climbing out of yourself.
If you're going to smash into the sky.

Many times I've gone past
the fifth floor,
cranking upward,
but only once
have I gone all the way up.
Sixtieth floor:
small plants and swans bending
into their grave.
Floor two hundred:
mountains with the patience of a cat,
silence wearing its sneakers.
Floor five hundred:
messages and letters centuries old,
birds to drink,
a kitchen of clouds.
Floor six thousand:
the stars,
skeletons on fire,
their arms singing.
And a key,
a very large key,
that opens something—
some useful door—
up there.

-- Anne Sexton (above), from The Awful Rowing Toward God. © Houghton Mifflin, 1975.


Karen E. said...

I read this a day or two ago (sometimes I cheat and read ahead there ....) and it took my breath away, too. Thanks for posting it.

Rodak said...

Thank you, Pentimento. You are quite right that I like it. I like the whole book, as matter of fact!