I used to pause at the stop of the stairs
whenever I had to go to the cellar
We lived in an old colonial house in Pennsylvania
the old wooden stairs creaked as you put your weight on them
Cobweb were everywhere and you could see the dirt floor
by the dim light of a small dirty window at ground level
there was a belching coal heater with a tiny window
with its wooden coal bin next to it
the coal trucks used to drive up and dump their thunderous load
through the tiny window with a chute
and we would watch terrified from the living room window
I hated going down there to empty the ash bucket
I didn’t take the time to look around
the only light came from the furnace and one dim light bulb
hanging on a frayed wire from the wood rafters.
I still remember how it made me feel. Cautious. Waiting. Dreading.
and I always ran up the stairs and shut the door – and only then
could I breathe out.