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"I can't seem to stop carrying my brother around on my back since he died in May 2011. I think of the way Aeneas carried his father Anchises out of defeat, but the stuff of my days is all here on the horizontal plane: termites, cancer, Led Zeppelin, and my devotion to the animal world. These all fell together one day into this poem."
—Alison Hawthorne Deming

Stairway to Heaven

Alison Hawthorne Deming, 1946

The queen grows fat beneath my house
while drones infest the walls

reconnaissance to feed her glut,
wood ripped from studs and joists.

I’ll pay to drill the slab and ruin
her pestilential nest. How to find 

the song in this day’s summons? 
I’ve been accused of darkness 

by my inner light. My brother sits 
in the chemo chair another long day 

of toxic infusion, the house of his body—
bones, brain and balls gone skeltering. 

I sit in my parked car listening 
to Robert Plant recall how the English 

envied the Americans for getting 
the blues, getting all of it, into song.

I remember the dream where 
brother and sister, adult and equal, 

lean and white as lilies, as bare, 
dove into a mountain lake, black water, 

high elevation, fir trees growing 
in flood water that had joined 

two lakes into one. Do you ever dream 
of animals, I ask him, hospice bed 

looking out on a plywood squirrel 
perched on cement block wall.
  
Frequently. A lilt of surprising joy. What kind?  
Mostly the jungle animals. Then: I’m going 

to do my exercises now. What exercises?  
I like pacing, he said, immobilized 

upon his death nest of nine pillows.
Then he closed his eyes to become the inward one 

whose only work was to wear a pathway 
back and forth within his enclosure. 

Copyright © 2014 by Alison Hawthorne Deming. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on January 24, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Alison Hawthorne Deming

Alison Hawthorne Deming

Poet and essayist Alison Hawthorne Deming was born in Connecticut in 1946