The Girl Eating Oysters Stewart Florsheim

The Elevator

The man’s pace quickens as he approaches me
in the lobby of our apartment building
next to the Port Authority,
the entry with the fake marble walls,
floor tiles in the shape of tiny diamonds
and the small elevator that creaks up
the six floors where everyone feels safe,
refugees from Dachau and Auschwitz,
the neighbors my mother invites over
to parade my skinny seven-year-old body,
comparing me to someone just out of the camps.
My genitals shrink as the man holds onto them, smiling,
I live on the sixth floor, my apartment is filled with candy,
the slits of his eyes open no wider than a knife blade.
You don’t live here, I say, I know everyone in the building,
and then his grip tightens as he pulls me toward the elevator,
the one he wants to use to lift us above my village,
above the morass of the city—
the teenage boys who punched me in the face on 180th Street,
or the ones who stole my UNICEF box on Halloween.
The man trembles now as he mentions the roof
where we can watch people get on and off buses
from cities like Englewood and Tenafly,
the rich people, unlike the two of us.
And as the light descends slowly down the shaft
I pray that the elevator is not empty
so when he pulls open the door
and Mrs. Duddel shuffles out demanding
in her wonderful Hungarian accent, Where is your mother?
I promise God I will not be angry with mom
for being late again, as the man rushes out
into the heart of the city beating wildly
along with the souls of frightened little boys.


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