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THE OPEN STAIRCASE / David Wagoner (a proposal for a sculpture in the manner of George Segal) A staircase without walls, A dark free-standing Two-story bare hardwood Assembly of treads and risers, Whose zigzagged banisters Surround a narrow stairwell. By the newel post at the foot A stark-white plaster woman Hesitates, looking up, Wondering whether climbing Is better than standing still. Half down his last few steps, A white young man is balanced Off balance, losing his grip. On the landing, its white torso As closely curled as a cat's, Something is sleeping off The memory of death. At the brink of the second floor A girl in her own shut cloud Of a world hugs her white knees Against her breast forever. The man on the upper landing With hard time on his hands Stands rigorously nude, His groin an empty space. Three steps above, head bent, A white old man holds on Before his final flight, Catching one freezing breath. At the top, a woman waits. Her blank face gazes down Through eyes dissolved in whiteness. 44 · The Missouri Review She is expecting no one, Has nothing behind her back And nothing to turn to Or deadlatch after her. There is no ceiling light. David Wagoner The Missouri Review · 45 ...


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pp. 44-45
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