Stairwell | Spiraling


Michelle Wang


Rachel Norman
it started
with that time
when i tiptoed down
from the top of my grandpa’s
staircase, trying not to wake him,
and wondered why he was always so tired

                  another step down

why grownups 
were always so tired,
why sometimes their smiles
seemed sad when their eyes crinkled up,
why we had to grow old and have trembling
hands and smell faintly of ash and nothingness

                  another step down

i spoke to god 
that night, asking her why
my tongue couldn't form all the words
i needed to say to her, why my cousin’s legs 
didn’t work, why we couldn’t live forever and
ever and why she didn’t make us perfect like she was

                  another step down

she didn’t say anything, 
but the next day the cousins
and i drove down to the beach
and we became sunburnt red-cheeked
smiling dancers/ mermaids/ dolphins—
this world was so big, it hurt my eyes to stare at

                   i rested on this stair for a while

that evening we sat on the black
leather couch and our skin
peeled off and we were teary
eyed butterflies smothered
in aloe—our newness itched
and ached and pained us 

                  sometimes i tumbled
                  half a flight at once

we left grandpa’s—
he coughed his goodbyes and
i knew i would see him the next year
like always, so i smiled as we drove off,
as we stopped at the drive-thru for donuts
and fell asleep leaning on each other, powdered hand 
in hand

                  i’m starting
                  to think that this
                  staircase goes on forever