Third Floor Missing

One of those frustrating days
at work. First I forget my socks
and shoes and have to cross the campus
in shivering November sleet.
Now, after climbing three flights of stairs,
I find the third floor missing.
Not the offices, just the floor.
I can’t cross the grinning void
to reach my door, and wonder
if you’re trapped just down the hall.

Yes, I hear you crying for help—
your voice so foggy and distant
it could be falling from the sky.
How could the floor disappear
without a trace of rubble? I rush
to a second-floor office and phone
for a ladder. Two campus cops
in blue and charcoal uniforms
arrive and prop the ladder up
to your door, and I climb and knock.

Inside, you’re correcting the proofs
of your novel about a woman
too shy to leave a brutal father
and marry a gentle but obese
preacher from a right-wing bible sect.
You deny you cried for help
and insist that the missing floor
will return of its own accord
before the day ends. You offer
tea boiled in your microwave
and fuzzy slippers to protect
my naked feet from frostbite.

I accept. The cops drop the ladder
and wave goodbye. Now we’re chatting
about favorite mushrooms and flowers,
so who cares if the floor returns
or not? The day addles past
and we remain trapped for hours
while the floor returns as gradually
as ice forming on a pond.

Ω

William Doreski teaches at Keene State College in New Hampshire. His most recent collection of poetry is Another Ice Age (2007. He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, Natural Bridge.