“Elevator” by Andrew Kozma

Andrew Kozma

ELEVATOR

Similarly, when the writer Leonid Plyushch was confined to a psychiatric hospital, and his wife asked what symptoms in her husband required treatment, the attending physician replied: “His views and convictions.”
—J. M. Coetzee,
Giving Offense

They are taking you somewhere you don’t want to go.
You don’t want to go
Out the door, the splintered, leprous door, the door that holds you
back in your old life, already old, because you cannot claim
it’s yours any longer, it’s a stranger’s, and that stranger has your face.
They are taking you down an elevator, floors passing like chills
Passing like chills
from a fever that never ends, these men in your government’s pay
except now you have no government, you are governed
only by the thought that, from this point on, nothing matters
but what they will make you say, what they say you have said:
You have said
your views will be your convictions. You long to feel nothing.
The cold floor under your bare feet, the hot skin of their hands
tight around your biceps, you feel even the elevator doors
in your imagination, your eyes running over them, a smell
Over them, a smell
of sweat, the oil left from countless fingerprints, a record
no one denies. No one denies because those whose eyes are open
are taking you where you don’t want to go. You close your eyes
but still see everything clearly. You will meet a man
You will meet a man
in a small room and he will hold your name in his hand.
He will place a picture on the desk before you. He will ask you
to denounce this woman in a dress green as a new leaf
braced by the morning light. You will not know her
You will not know her
but after sleeplessness, after starvation, after beatings
that leave no mark, after standing for entire nights
ankle-deep in freezing water, you will recognize kindness
in her dark eyes and, crying with relief, say, “Yes.”
With relief, say, “Yes.”

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009

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Andrew Kozma: “Recently, my writing has been born of a mixture of sources, not necessarily having anything to do with each other, but coming together through chance. In a hotel I was mesmerized by the directions on how to escape the building in case of fire. These simple directions for safety and freedom jarred with my main focus at the moment: oppression and resistance to that oppression in Soviet Russia. And so this poem.” (website)