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About this Poem 

“The scariest thing about going to Catholic school was that I was told I had to learn how to walk up and down stairs (something I couldn't do by the age of seven because of my nystagmus). I spent the summer ‘learning’ how to walk up and down stairs. I hadn't thought about it in ages, and then this poem appeared.”
—Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Achingly Beautiful How the Sky Blooms Umber at the End of the Day, Through the Canopy

Summers spent practicing in the apartment
stairwell: hand on the bannister, one foot after
another. Did I ever tell you I couldn’t walk

until I was three and then sort of dragged
myself up and downstairs until I was seven
or eight? That burgundy carpet.

I’d stop to breathe and look out the window,
over brick tenements, toward the Capitol
building. Oak leaves so full of late summer

sun even I thought, “Obscene” and stood stunned
for a moment. My God. The urge to rest like the birds
on the phone wires, chatting like barristers

at the end of the day. Myself the useless
Ambassador from the third floor. I was the last one
up so the door was left open. I can still see it gaping

from two stories down. Sometimes music played.
Sometimes I’d smell supper. Neighbors stopped
to say hello. Achingly beautiful how the sky

looked as I stood after they left. Nicer somehow
in the middle. All the trees tucking blackbirds
into their darkness. It really did take this long.

Copyright © 2015 by Gabrielle Calvocoressi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 15, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Gabrielle Calvocoressi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 15, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Gabrielle Calvocoressi's most recent poetry collection is Rocket Fantastic (Persea Books, 2017).

by this poet

poem

The first thing I learned was to look wide
at the darkness

and not want anything. He'd say, Just look 
at the darkness

and tell me what you see. I'd say, I see stars or
Just the stars, Dad.

And he'd say, Don't call them that yet. What do you

poem
It's ridiculous what fame
can buy you. Not the beast
but the tiny, frightened
man who brings him
in a cage from Alhambra,
who stands in the doorway
as the three girls finish,
get off the bed and walk down 
to the pool, giggling as they pass.
The Bandleader borrowed
a tiger because we saw it 
in a reel the studio
poem

Locked away we’re like a Russian novel:

                                               the hermit and the cowboy,

me stepping from the train.

                                               A world of snow. Whose Great Coat a den

of baby foxes skinned and sewn