Someone called my name on the stairs
by Debra Kaufman

kindly, as if to tell me supper was ready.
It was so quiet that day—
my brother napping, my sister away—

I floated down the dark, narrow stairwell.
We lived with our grandmother
and the ghost upstairs who hovered whenever

our mother read us fairy tales.
Once upon a time meant the story truly happened
long ago somewhere far, far away.

The world was fluid then,
only a veil separating here from there,
fireflies and fairies equally alive.

When I got to the kitchen I asked
my mother why she’d called me.
She said she hadn’t.

It must have been Jesus, I said.
Before I could wonder
what He might have wanted,

she laughed. The air crackled,
a mirror cracked,
and the magic flew off in a puff of dust.

IMAGE: Listening by CDD20.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My mother read fairy tales and Bible stories to my siblings and me, a gift I treasure. The stories were as real to me as the rest of my life; only time and miles separated Jesus and Rapunzel from me in our home in rural Illinois. I was about six when I heard my name called, and the memory—the awakening—is a deep, mysterious well I still draw on in my writing, dreaming, and psyche.

debKaufman2022ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Debra Kaufman is the author of the poetry collections God Shattered, Delicate Thefts, The Next Moment, and A Certain Light, as well as three chapbooks, many monologues and short plays, and five full-length plays. Recent poems appeared in Poetry East, North Carolina Literary Review, Tar River Poetry, and Triggerfish Literary Review. She recently produced Illuminated Dresses, a series of monologues by women, in Raleigh, North Carolina, and adapted Paul Green’s 1936 antiwar play Johnny Johnson. Visit her at