The Ladder


When I finally made my way across the ice of my twenties and thirties and forties and up the mountain through the cedars a great sage gave me a grass sack to start my new life. In the grass sack I found a dull gray stone, a box that once held a gold locket, a toy fire truck, and a ladder. I have learned to use the stone in love, to turn the stone over. I keep the box closed, the gift its own cherishing. The toy fire truck—well, fate burns, as it will. The great sage said a grass sack is a thing, just a thing, all things empty. But Master, the ladder. I hitched up the ladder to every height and still the moon rolls away. Above the clouds the airplanes are small and cold and the ladder sways. Teach me to climb down from ambition. Beyond my fingertips rolls the moon.

ALAN MICHAEL PARKER is Douglas C. Houchens Professor of English at Davidson College. He is the author of seven collections of poems, including Long Division, winner of the 2012 North Carolina Book Award. He is also the author of three novels, including The Committee on Town Happiness. He has been awarded three Pushcart Prizes, the Fineline Prize from the Mid-American Review, and the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America; he has published essays, poems, and stories in journals including American Poetry Review, The Believer, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Paris Review, and Best American Poetry. He directs the creative writing program at Davidson College and in January will join the faculty of the University of Tampa Low-residency M.F.A. program. For more information, see: