Monday, April 20, 2009

Love in an elevator...

Okay, truthfully this has nothing to do with the Aerosmith song, but I can't help but get the song stuck in my head wherever elevators are concerned. And this post concerns elevators.

A student of mine alerted me to this video of a guy stuck in an elevator in a New York office building for 41 hours. It was a Friday night, he was working late. He went out for a smoke and when he tried to go back to work, the elevator stopped somewhere around floor 13. He had no watch or cell phone, no way to tell the time and no connection to the outside world.

You can read more about his experience in Nick Paumgarten's brilliant article "Up and Then Down: The lives of elevators," which was published last year in the New Yorker.

In the article, Paumgarten writes, "While anthems have been written to jet travel, locomotives, and the lure of the open road, the poetry of vertical transportation is scant."

While probably true, I offer you a poem featuring an elevator regardless.
Self-Inquiry Before the Job Interview

Did you sneeze?
Yes, I rid myself of the imposter inside me.

Did you iron your shirt?
Yes, I used the steam of mother's hate.

Did you wash your hands?
Yes, I learned my hygiene from a raccoon.

I prayed on my knees, and my knees answered with pain.
I gargled. I polished my shoes until I saw who I was.
I inflated my résumé by employing my middle name.

I walked to my interview, early,
The sun like a ring on an electric stove.
I patted my hair when I entered the wind of a revolving door.
The guard said, For a guy like you, it's the 19th floor.

The economy was up. Flags whipped in every city plaza
In America. This I saw for myself as I rode the elevator,
Empty because everyone had a job but me.

Did you clean your ears?
Yes, I heard my fate in the drinking fountain's idiotic drivel.

Did you slice a banana into your daily mush?
I added a pinch of salt, two raisins to sweeten my breath.

Did you remember your pen?
I remembered my fingers when the elevator opened.

I shook hands that dripped like a dirty sea.
I found a chair and desk. My name tag said my name.
Through the glass ceiling, I saw the heavy rumps of CEOs.
Outside my window, the sun was a burning stove,
All of us pushing papers
To keep it going.

(Gary Soto, from Poetry July 2001)

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