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The Chute

The Chute

My father's white shirt falls

a black and rushing mass

down the dark throat of our house.

In the basement below

the promise of soft cotton

racing toward my upturned face,

the cool slate floor

hard against my stocking feet.

Through the opening above me

the arms unfold.

I stand draped in aftershave,

the empty shape of his embrace.

From three floors above,

my brothers' muted laughter

tumbles like an afterthought

down the narrow passage.

When my brother played the starving boy

trapped inside a well

I lowered tiny carrot sticks

carefully with twine

until their shapes were swallowed

by the yawning darkness.

One night my parents in the blue glow of evening news

watched women from West Virginia

wail and crumple in their grief--

sons and husbands trapped in black tunnels

deep inside the earth.

I climbed the third floor stairs,

padding slowly through the darkness

hooked my finger through the trap door's ring

and pulled the clothes chute open.

Down the wooden shaft

dust drifted like prayer.

I listened for the sound

of breathing from below.

--Tracy Grubbs

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