Friday, January 28, 2011

the wooden hill

the paint on the front door
is older than my eyes

pushing against the door's heavy body
i follow
the staircase's cautious winding
and away from the street

edward hopper stairway at 48 rue de lille, paris

moving side-to-side
i can hear the soft giving creak
and feel the curved metal edge
of each stair

my hands curl and
grip the thick softness of the railing
even as my tongue
draws thickly against
cracked dry lips
that crave nothing more
than wine
and sleep

on the landing
the number seven
tilts slightly
on a red door
thick with age

the smells of cooked cabbage
and fish
swim grey and thin
in air long-yellowed
and tarnished
by hope long forgotten

pressing the key
into the lock
the handle turns reluctantly
admitting me through its dark frame

i am home

the frayed signposts
of a well-worn track
toward the window

through which
i see snow
painting the softest pale-grey
light on the rooftops

pressing my lips to the window
i watch my breath
spread outwards like an island
on a glassy sea

gustav caillebotte rooftops with snow


  1. Marvelous word imagery. I found the opening comparison of the paint on the front door being older than your eyes so striking. But by the time I got up the staircase, into the home and by the window, I was reminded that yours are the ever-young eyes of a poet.

  2. lorenzo one day i would like to be a poet, for now, i tell stories. i'm working towards telling stories with layers that the reader can choose to experience or not. it's a long journey and with grace i'll have the time to move through the many stages of writing that i sense and emerge a poet. steven

  3. You're not a poet? Oh.

    I agree that these images are strongly sentient. I have walked up stairs like that in Paris, and it is just the sense. And stairs in Istanbul, where those smells escape under apartment doors.

    It doesn't get better than Hopper and Caillebotte, paired with Steven!

  4. hi ruth - if i could i'd like to explain what that means here. my own sense of poetry is that the very best poetry has a door or a window that is made available for the express purpose of allowing the reader to walk through or see through to the deeper riches that the writer is sharing. the surface or skin of a poem is much like food - a lovely experiential means to an end. but there are other possibilities. while that same food allows life to continue, beyond the animal needs of living there are also the richer more fruitful ends that require work. especially a spiritual life. so it is with poetry - beneath the surface of any good poem lie riches that require work to experience. my wish is to embed in my writing the possibility of a spiritual experience or at the very least, an unpacking of the human condition. i'm not consciously there yet. thanks for the kind comment. steven

  5. Thanks for the explanation, Steven.

    I wonder at your statement: i'm not consciously there yet.

    That may be, but when your readers do experience a spiritual movement in response to reading your poems, doesn't that qualify, in your own terms?

  6. ruth - yes. i think of the writing of the sufi poets as a place to place admiration. for their ability to provide doors and windows and then also a layering of information that provides insight into truthfulness and especially to allow for a letting go of the terms of the earth. i don't think this was an accident - which distinguishes them from much of my writing. i wish to write entirely with intentionality and a full awareness of the layers i am invoking. thanks for the reply. steven

  7. Yes, a wooden hill! Lovely, evocative piece. I could feel the handle and smell the fish. I love Hopper's stairway. It looks nearly identical to the front steps at Willow Manor. I posted them side by side some time back.

  8. tess in my wanderings i think my eyes blink and then something sticks and returns as if for the first time. it's lovely living life like that!!! steven