Stairs, stairs everywhere. Ascent. Descent. As you care. Most are clumsy. Few adept. Mind the gap and watch your step.

Tony Oursler deploys a proliferation of ladders and stairs in his new video for ‘Where Are We Now?’ (See some above). Of course I’ve been hammering these treads for some time now, careful readers. This returns me to my well-trod thesis, the innermost layer of the Bowie onion, The Man Who Sold the World, both song and album, to which I’ve devoted a fair number of electrons and brain cells peeling away. The following sonnet, which appeared a few months back in The Pennsylvania Review, weds M. C. Escher to the mix. For another stair-eye view, I direct you to the neat little poetical paradox, Antigonish by Hughes Mearns here. Language paradoxes emulate an abyss or as a wise old lady once informed Betrand Russell as he found himself hopelessly entangled in quantum wave collapse: ‘It’s tortoises all the way down.’

Confessions of the Man Who Sold the World

I outlaid Escher’s layers. But mounted tales
plot stairs that well within. God’s a sideways
apparition. You can’t bank clouds. My sales
were ground-floor importunities. It pays
to sell thyself out. Jesus flogged that score.
I shook hands with his absence. Felt a cool
departure. Then arrived.
That wanking whore,
winged escalation, lies. Today’s sale? Who’ll
lose me to better invest themselves? Fans
delegate rough passage, rough trade, supply
rich altitude ‘til one day we all buy
it. Exhausted, I stepped back from contraband
to amplify my own sagged firmament,
deaf to fresh entreaty, making the rent.

This sonnet originally appeared at The Pennsylvania Review, Sept 2012 issue