The Staircase

But This Is Not about Me

Jane Smallwood
3 min readMar 24, 2022


*Trigger Warning* Themes of mental health and abuse

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

Climbing, climbing, that was what you set out to do, wasn’t it?
You were born a climber. Climbing out of your crib, Climbing
up the dusty furniture, our mother’s skirt-clad legs, gauzy curtains,
uncertain kitchen cabinets.

You moved. You were a mover. A runner. Running down the
sand-choked beach. Running down our gravelly street. Running at
night, mixed with streetlights, mixed with fireflies, mixed with
games of hide-and-seek.

You sought. A seeker of things, both rusted and shining, ideas,
out our car window, passing in fields of corn, in dusky skies.
You went after all that you saw, seeking the gleaming insides, the
how’s and the why’s, and the where’s (where’s the when?).

It was all a staircase. The grape Kool-Aid. The cold Popsicles. The hot
sprinting. The green Frisbees. The leather mitts. A staircase, steps to race up,
stops on The Way. You were a racer, a smiler, an elk, you made it all look
easy as you swept to the finish line again and again.

But when (here it is) did you start chasing backward your tail, was it
that which really caught your eye? Was it the moon shining one night
when you were trying to sleep but couldn’t close those blue eyes? No,
I think it came from what happened in that house, what happened to you.

How you were born — a climber in a sea full of swimmers, with the stench
of things no child should endure. In that equation, the staircase turned
backward, turned sideways, turned upside down, on its head, there would be
no way to navigate it when you reached that One Point.

You began your descent, deep down into the roots of despair and bloody
lack of esteem. You were a slider, you slid down the steps down our
bannister, shining with yesterday’s…



Jane Smallwood

Passionate about poetry; mine is a work in progress. I’m an editor who reads a lot, but when I read in my free time, I don’t change a word. Love to paddleboard!