Things to Do While Trapped in an Elevator

Try not to think about your parched tongue
or the urge to pee.
Don’t think about the 5 apartments
that still need cleaning
or your dog at home waiting
and whining for Kibbles ‘n Bits.
Ignore your growling stomach.

Instead, focus on the unlit buttons—
silver moons numbered 1 through 5.
Count to 5 in English, in Spanish.
Realize it’s your 53rd year. Count 1
for the first day of the ordeal. Recall 2
candles you lit at church on Sunday.
3: how many times you tried to leave him.

Stare at 4 walls. Hope for stagnation
over sudden freefall. Don’t think
of that woman crippled by a crashing elevator.
Wonder why you have not left him yet.
Sit on the gray floor, try to sleep.
Close your eyes and picture a beach
in the Bahamas. Wipe away New York.
Winter. The building. The elevator.

Name the capital, every client, every man
you’ve ever kissed. Count the freckles on your hand,
the wrinkles near the knuckles,
trace the intersecting lines on your palms.
Recall what that fortune teller said.

Curse yourself for forgetting a phone.
Curse the elevator for breaking.
Curse your husband for cursing you.
Curse the commissioner of elevator
oversight on the inspection certificate.
Hope that any minute a strapping fireman
will slide open these doors and rescue you.


Maureen Sherbondy lives in Durham, North Carolina. Her forthcoming book is Dancing with Dali (FutureCycle Press, 2020). She has published work in Litro, Prelude, The Cortland Review, Stone Canoe, and other journals. She has also published three full-length poetry collections. Her first young adult novel, Lucky Brilliant, will be published in 2020.