The Ladder

By Jane Booth

After Sharon Olds She stands on the porch made of wooden slats, the window open behind her, its ivy creeping upwards like a ladder. She is about to leave from this place, about to find what is waiting for her when home is no longer a house with a front porch and white siding. I want to go up to her and say Stop, you aren’t ready, there are still goodbyes left to wish and boys down the street you haven’t yet kissed, and Easter eggs still hiding somewhere in the backyard, long forgotten. I want to remind her of how she used to gather fallen leaves for the friendly Giant who lived in the treehouse, so he would have kindling to keep warm in the winter frost. I want to send her off with a bundle of sticks in a knapsack tied with a checked bandana. And a map. Instead I will trace her footsteps from destination to starting point and show her that her mother really was right all along: You will walk in circles. The path will crisscross over itself so many times you will not know which way you came from. But there will be joy waiting on the other side, and you will find joy in the wading. Life will start when you leave from this place. So sprinkle breadcrumbs at every crossroads, gather postcards from the world and address them to your former self, pray with your dancing body and breathe in the smoke before your eyes begin to water. Don’t wait until you’re ready.