David Lewis Paget (22.11.1944 / Nottingham, England/live in Australia)
The Winding Stair
I took a room on the second floor
Of a building lost in time,
Nobody knew just when it was built
By way of its weird design.
It once had stood on an acreage
Of woods, and lakes and sky,
But now it stood in a fifth rate slum
And the world had passed it by.
Its red-brick frontage streaked with soot,
Its columns black with grime,
The marble floor with ancient foot
Was scored, and past its prime,
But any roof was a comfort then
For my life had lost its way,
And I couldn’t face the future then,
Nor yet, the light of day.
The janitor was an ugly man
And he had but one good eye,
He’d only let to the down-and-outs
And tramps that were passing by,
He made the rules for the ancient place
And he said, ‘Just you beware,
Don’t ever go to the back of the house
Or use the winding stair.’
He knew I’d agree to anything
For I had nowhere to go,
Since ever my wife had turned me out
For a butcher, name of Joe.
The years we’d spent were meaningless
Once she’d set her sights on him,
So I left without a word or a prayer
But kept my feelings in.
Up above was another floor
That was empty all the time,
The janitor said, ‘it’s not in use,
It’s just too hard to climb.’
And above that floor was another room
With the windows painted black,
And accessed by the winding stair
I’d been warned about, out back.
It was lonely there on the second floor
It was quiet as the tomb,
I got to wondering what was there
Upstairs in the topmost room,
There were noises, scuffles and fumblings,
At times in the early hours,
But when I asked the janitor why,
All that I got were glowers.
‘This house has plenty of secrets but
It keeps them to itself,
As you’d be better to keep to yours,
Rather than dig and delve,
I trust that you’ll never get the urge
To leave the second floor,
If ever I catch you out, my friend
I’ll see you out the door.’
His threats were making me curious
So I listened, quite intent,
At two or three in the morning when
Some noise was evident,
I climbed one night to the floor above
And I saw the winding stair,
And what was coming and going sent
A shock through my greying hair.
There were figures in shiny silver suits
Came in and out from the street,
Carrying cats and rats and dogs
Like specimens, all asleep,
And a terrible growl from the topmost room
Rang out when they opened the door,
And sent a shiver like ice along
My spine, from the upper floor.
And down the stairway creatures came
That I’d only seen in books,
Handed to strangers down below
With a nod, or merely a look,
They’d been extinct for a million years
Or had in the books I’d read,
But not a one of them lived or breathed,
They seemed to be newly dead.
I got back down to my room again
Shivered, and closed the door,
Sat in a quivering heap of dread
But I knew that I wanted more,
They must have come from a future time
And delved way into the past,
Why would they want our cats and dogs,
Had they lost their own, at last?
I went again on succeeding nights
The traffic was still the same,
For men of science and drunken girls
And still the strangers came,
But then a bellow from in that room
And a crunching, crashing sound,
With voices raised in the midnight gloom,
The janitor came, and frowned.
‘You’ve seen too much, now you’ll have to stay, ’
He growled, and pointed a gun,
Prodded me up the winding stair
‘Til we saw what was going on,
The door to the topmost room was blocked
By an animal, tightly jammed,
‘My god, we’ll have to get out of here,
This never was part of the plan.’
Two giant tusks blocked the winding stair
As I looked in its evil eye,
Its head and shoulders had blocked the door
With no way of getting by,
It let out a giant trumpet blast
Of pain, as I turned to run,
This was no elephant, that I knew,
But a giant Mastodon.
Then up above was a steady whine
Like a jet that was winding up,
‘Don’t leave me here, ’ cried the janitor,
‘I have to get back, just stop! ’
But the roof of the house was lifting up
And the bricks were falling away,
I caught a glimpse of a saucer shape
As this thing took off that day.
The winding stair came crashing down
With nothing to stop its fall,
I landed down in the basement, found
Myself by a Roman wall,
The janitor, not so fortunate
Was crushed by the falling beast,
Killed by a thing, so long extinct,
By a million years, at least.
I didn’t wait for the powers that be
But took myself on the road,
Looking for somewhere else to stay
To hide away from the cold,
I found me a mansion, streaked with soot
With its columns, black with grime,
And thought, as I took a second look,
It seemed to be lost in time!
16 August 2013
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.