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“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

Calvocoressi's awards and honors include a Stegner Fellowship, a Jones Lectureship at Stanford University and a Rona Jaffe Women Writers' Award

by this poet

poem

He's really beautiful. When he's standing in the trees like that and thinks nobody sees him. He's like a stag. Which sounds silly but he is. The way the light shines on him. The way it bounces off his hair like spray from the sprinkler. And he doesn't know it right then. Because he's looking somewhere else. Maybe

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
It isn't how we look up close
so much as in dreams.

Our giant is not so tall,
our lizard boy merely flaunts

crusty skin- not his fault 
they keep him in a crate

and bathe him maybe once a week.
When folks scream or clutch their hair

and poke at us and glare and speak
of how we slithered up from Hell,

it is