a taller ladder

He loses his words. Language bumping over stones. Before he eases his body down, he sets his walking stick against a tree trunk with care–if he places it just so he will remember when it’s time to go.

I can’t think how a stick can tell him time, but how do I know when it is time? When is something over? How is it when I know I’ve had enough?

He whittles a length of aspen. I’m no good with knives.


The two-step ladder he flies with is not tall enough tonight. It’s midnight and he is trying to reach into a plane’s engine to disconnect the injector he’s flown here to inspect.

He’s just about to haul himself onto the plane’s wing. I offer to find a phone book he can stand on instead. Maybe there’s one in the cockpit. Maybe there’s a flight manual thick enough to give him the extra inches he needs.

Most of the time all I need is one more sheet of paper, he tells me—pausing to take the flashlight from his mouth so I can better understand him. As if one more sheet of paper would be the difference between not being able to reach what he was after and reaching it.

But maybe that is so.

He glances down at me. I scan our horizon as though that extra sheet of paper might be flying by. I can’t see very far, but can feel the way forever feels. Time has stopped at midnight on the tarmac. Evenly curved rows of blue runway lights define our perimeter. Little hand on the twelve. The big hand stuck there, too.


In other news: “Cracking Geodes Open”was released August 3rd. Thank you, Aldrich Press.


About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website: https://toomuchaugust.wordpress.com

6 responses to “a taller ladder

  1. I like marking time with a stick and the one sheet of paper. I think I like airplane guy quite a bit.

  2. Sherry — You always ask such important questions of life, of us, your readers.

  3. Katy

    yeah, but how much does a taller ladder or extra piece of paper cost? Sorry I’m fixated on money today. sigh. I figure you know when it’s over when you run out of cash, and you don’t have the heart for prostitution.
    bah humbug.

    I like the aspen whittler. He seems very calm.

    • redmitten

      katy- i love it when cash tells me when to stop (or, i mean the lack of cash). otherwise i often beat my head on the brickwall for longer than i should. but then comes along someone with a way to make up for the taller ladder… and so maybe it’s ok if i don’t give in too soon. yeah, i’m liking your term “the aspen whittler”. poetry comes right out of you! 🙂

  4. Rose Hunter

    Love the photo, the sheet of paper, and the lack of fanfare.
    Huge congratulations on the book. I am proud to have my name on the back of it. 🙂

    • redmitten

      rose- i am happy to have your blurb and name on it, too! anxious for the box of books to arrive. ah…the “lack of fanfare”….that is it, huh.

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