Haven Spec current issue


Stairs Appeared in My Backyard One Night

By Marcus Whalbring in Issue Nine, June 2023

It took all night to get to the bottom floor
under the tree roots and the cicadas and the fossils.
Like anyone, I wondered if I’d found the way to Hell,
but there were no screams layered like torn fabric
on one another begging God’s mercy. There were no
flames, no bald bodies crying, stranded across
the ashen floor of an oceanless beach. There were
just rows of nice couches stretching on for miles,
a forest of couches, and there were people napping
or just sitting and reading, talking quietly
with one another. No one seemed to wonder why
we all were there. If I locked eyes with anyone
they’d just smile a bit and nod and go back
to their conversation or book. I asked a woman
who was lying on a very nice futon in her
work clothes with her shoes off where I was.
She said, We’re under my yard. I said, No,
we’re under my yard. She shrugged and went
back to sleep. I felt bad for waking her, so
I didn’t say anything more. I found a sectional
no one was using, so I lay down and looked
at the ceiling that was about forty feet above me,
full of these white flowers everywhere,
which explained the heady smell. Then I realized
they were lotus flowers, that if I stayed too long,
I’d forget my home and maybe never come back.
I got up quickly. Does anyone know where
the stairs are? I said loudly, but no one looked up.
So I just picked a direction and walked
that way for miles until a set of stairs appeared
finally. I climbed them, out of the light,
and when I got to the top, I was somewhere
I’d never seen, with a big oak tree above me,
someone else’s yard. A big dog started
barking at me. But then it realized who I was
and began licking my hand. What is it Brutus,
said a woman from the back porch, a woman
I’d never seen before. She looked
at me and smiled. There you are, she said.
I’ve been yelling for you, didn’t you hear me?
She took my hand and led me inside,
where I saw pictures of myself on the walls,
pictures with her when we were in our twenties,
pictures of us with kids at the beach.
An older boy and a younger girl. Our kids?
It’s dinner time, the woman said to the whole
house, and we sat at the table. The kids came in
and hugged me. We sat quietly, then they all
looked at me and didn’t eat. Daddy? the girl said,
Are you going to say the prayer?
The prayer? I asked. Yeah, the one you
always do, she said. They kept staring, staring.
Waiting for me to start. So I cleared my throat,
we held hands, and I started the prayer, which
I somehow knew suddenly, every word.

© 2023 Marcus Whalbring

Marcus Whalbring

Marcus Whalbring is the author of A Concert of Rivers from Milk & Cake Press, as well as How to Draw Fire from Finishing Line Press and Just Flowers from Crooked Steeple Press. A graduate of the MFA program at Miami University, his poems and stories have appeared or are forthcoming in, Strange Horizons, Space & Time, Illumen, The Dread Machine, Abyss & Apex, Spaceports and Spidersilk, Cortland Review, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Spry, and Underwood Press, among others. He’s a high school teacher, a father, and a husband. You can connect with him via twitter at @marcuswhalbring and learn more about his work at https://marcuswhalbring.wpcomstaging.com/poetry/.

Poetry by Marcus Whalbring
  • Stairs Appeared in My Backyard One Night