On Falling Up Dog Leap Stairs

Already your tongue’s checked
your front teeth twice. One shin
is stinging, your forehead’s intact

but those minutes you’d saved, precious
coins in your pocket, lie spent
on the steps. You notice your legs

have you upright again, and your feet,
ignoring the interruption,
have carried you on – suede-booted,

weightless – but now they’ve given in.
You’re on your own, half-way up,
illuminated by a yellow lamp.

You hold on to what’s left of your breath
they slowly exhale, listening for footsteps
not coming, still

not coming out of the dark, the silence above
and behind your thudding pulse. In the beats between
you offer a deal to the ancient

hiding close by, watching. Then you stop
having thoughts – you make a move, go
with what the shadow-cat in you knows, in her bones.

Joan Johnston