Edwina Trentham

Ladder

Peering down, thick brows furrowed, he tells her

to lean hard against the uneven legs,

then steps up another rung, another,

inching higher until he can reach out,

reach up for the dead light-bulb. Spider webs

 

wreathe his black curls, the splintered roof sifts dust

motes in a sun-shot cloud.  She looks away,

feels his weight shift, feels the ladder shudder,

wraps her arms around the rickety base,

just has time to whisper, god, he’s going

 

to kill me, before the heavy tangle

of his bones slams her into the concrete

floor, bloodies her nose and thuds all the air

from her lungs.  Knees, palms scraped raw, she scrabbles

to find breath, as he curses fate, curses

 

the ladder, finally drags himself off her,

scooping her up to carry her inside.

When at last her friends arrive, marveling

at the distance they have driven to be

with her on her birthday, they find the two

 

of them heaped on the couch, watching cartoons—

faces and limbs spattered with gore.  Muted

by Valium, she hasn’t figured out

how to tell the story, can’t remember

if it’s supposed to be a comedy.