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The Vertical Woman

by Linda Lappin

A woman ascends
in an elevator

on her way
to an assignation.

When it finally stops
on the top floor

she gets out
but finds

the door is locked.
But someone, luckily,

has loaned her the keyjust for the night.
Rather, a set of twenty-five

keys, one of which is surely
the one she needs.

But none work
and only when she turns away

with a yawn
does the door open invitingly

of its own accord
and the woman steps into a glittering room

where two arms in velvet sleeves
are reaching out to her.

But once inside
the door quickly shuts behind her

and vanishes
along with the arms, the room

the elevator, the building
her purse with the twenty-five keys

all her clothes
even her name.

The woman remains alone
naked, vertical

in an empty field
where the echo of a dog

can be heard barking
all the way back to childhood.


Linda Lappin received her MFA from the University of Iowa. She has lived in Rome for twenty years, working as a teacher and translator. In 1996 she received an NEA award in translation for her work on the stories of Federigo Tozzi. She has just finished her first novel, Prisoner of Palmary. (1999)


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