Kabul, 2006
A shopping mall has opened, full of wonders.
There is a thing here, and into it you put
a card, and in maybe fifteen seconds
money comes out.  The locals spend days
yo-yoing in the city’s only elevator,
and take pictures of all their friends
riding the escalators.

Chicago, 1940s
The mecca of my childhood: Marshall Field’s.
While my mother shops, I ride and ride.
Curious about a crowd, she finds
that all those people are waiting for me
to finish coming up the down escalator.

Gardemon, Norway, 2003
As we step onto the horizontal strip
that carries us and our luggage from here to there,
a slant-slashed red circle informs us
that on this escalator that doesn’t escalate
jumping rope is not allowed.

Prague, 1988
In this gray, glum city the escalator
runs down and down to the metro,
deep, steep and swift.  Longing
to transmute my terror into hope
for my fellow riders, I shut my eyes
and sing:  “The Lord God is at work
in this thick night.”  I cannot know
that next year the government will fall.

Heathrow, 1968
Between flights we stand by the top
of the escalator where my husband
takes movies of cresting bowlers,
headbands, topis, turbans, fezzes, kofias;
miniskirts, granny dresses, lederhosen,
caftans, djellabas, saris—
all the peoples of the earth
rising and rising.

About the author

Esther Greenleaf Mürer grew up in the Old Northwest, spent most of the Vietnam War years in Norway, and now lives in Philadelphia. She…

Read the full bio

Issue 05 · June 2009

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