“How I stopped fearing elevators and other confined spaces”

This poem won Editor's Mom's Choice in 2-Day Poem Contest 2023

At walk-in counselling in the strip mall by the beach,
they quiz me on their intake form: what have you done
to solve the problem yourself? I’ve set a timer,
I’ve minded the phosphenes behind my eyelids,
I’ve endured. They ask, what scares you about elevators?
It’s the abyssalpelagic gap at the threshold,
the moment of stillness when the doors clasp shut.

No, that’s not it. I realize it’s the meadow
near my house that is terrifying: the fragrant blooms
of Nootka roses, the obsidian-coated
throat of a common quail, grey squirrels clinging
to tree knots—I already smell
their souring. I see the stillness
in a mallard’s breast even as it soars.
I fish out the metal keychain you gave me,
finger the concatenate grooves of loving words
embossed with the confidence of a fattened exhale.
Isn’t all of this already dust?

I know these are lazy prophecies. I’m not one to track
retrogrades, a comet, a syzygy. Mind grips prospective
loss with practiced, panicked certainty. An elevator contains

an eternity, however brisk the ride. Mechanically disinclined,
I pray to cogs and belts or a god gadding about in the walls.
An elevator contains a world. Contains my racing heartbeat.
The trick to riding elevators is to surrender. Ready to step out.
Ready for the meadows and beaches to rush in. Ready to lose everything.