Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Down Escalator














We recently stayed at a hotel in Hollywood that gives the appearance of being designed on the model of a London hotel, so (for example) the signs for what Americans call "elevators" say "lifts."

As far as I can tell, the British call "escalators" "escalators." I have to say (well, I don't really have to) that "lift" is pretty impressive. It's so simple. And it does describe what the machine does to (for) you--if you're going up, that is, and if the machine is working properly. This escalator-poem was first written in Canada, not Hollywood or Britain, though, if memory serves. So it goes.


The Down Escalator

A sign specifies I ought to stand right or walk
left. Standing right, moving, and thus moving
as I stand, I take this escalator, which takes
me--down, against the grain of its name.

Ahead I see the floor inhale grooved metal
steps insatiably. The ingested steps fall
into an abyss, which I escape undramatically
by getting off a step just before it vanishes.

The momentum of moving while standing
right makes my first stride betray over-
compensation. A slight hint of stagger mars
my gait. I proceed to plod without the escalator.

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom
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