stairway companion

the first line arrives as the guard nods

resignedly he unlocks the gate

his grief fresh after his wife's death

he smiles the briefness of a clown's happiness

jolted already to the next line's enjambment 

the first stanza finds my page address

my tired travelled legs trudge through

the foyer swarming with familiar faces

like the woman in a black burqa

who plays hopscotch

tossing a stone upon the course

which is drawn with white chalk

the hopping leg and marker

scribble an epitaph

a graven image I carry in my heart

the regular rhythm of wall clocks

its stolid language of distance cannot possibly

fathom my footsteps which tap wooden stairs

and echo news to the walls I am almost there

a line can take an eternity

or a second's silence to arrive

and then a flood across the paper

the first-floor welcome of the dog

his tail-wagging woof and snort

he scratches the air with his paw

as if it were a hand holding

the history of our daily communion

we share a biscuit and a quiet rhyme

the reprieve gives me strength enough to climb

to the next floor 

and what awaits but the quarrelling voices

of second floor residents as I graze

my ear to the wall lizards scurry down

to gobble moths like falling verses

that quench my hunger as I lick the

shape sound smell of curling letters

the straight-line certainty of the caravan ants

attend my slow ascent

finally I reach my floor and fumble for the key

my world spinning breathless at the sight

of blossoming tender streels of potted plants

or the children's graffiti shimmering on fractured walls

this final point where all thoughts and lines

loom with the weight of accumulated luggage

each detail pronounces the promise of arrival

having found a friend to accompany me

this poem is long enough to last

from gate to doorway and beyond

Dhirendra Kumar Shah lives in Mumbai, originally from Kalimpong, India. He recently completed his Master's degree in English Literature with a research paper on Toni Morrison's novels. He works part-time as an academic content writer for colleges affiliated to the University Of Mumbai. Dhirendra is the Chief Editor of Teesta Rangeet – an online poetry journal (annual print publication) with a focus on Indian Nepali poets.

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