I've chosen to take the stairs.
It's harder, but quicker
than waiting for the elevator
which seems eternally stuck on R—Roof.
And I'm late, the last of the parents
who don't send a stand-in.
I'm running, propelled by a kind of demon
—and embarrassed by my lateness—
up the back stairs of the synagogue,
when a window appears in the shaft,
on the wall of the stairwell;
a real window, like a painting on a wall
through which you can see the sky.
The shattered blue leans in, breaks
through the wall; it leaves
an opening, a sudden shudder, a frisson
like a rustle of eternity
shattered in the vista of receding
clouds, antennae, water towers…
and I think we are not far from ecstasy
even in the interior.
I can't get my son to hold the banister
as we descend the stairs;
a look of sheer defiance clouds his face,
the same boy who, the other night
I watched shuffle and backpedal and nearly fall,
down the escalator, over
the rapids of the raw-toothed
edges of the blades;
his hands, his attention, occupied
by a rabbit samurai Ninja turtle
and Krang, the bodiless brain.
I gauged the dive I would need
to catch him if he fell:
a flat out floating horizontal grab
I couldn't even have managed in my youth.
From Sundays on the Phone, first published in The Paris Review