Sophy Burnham

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The Basement Stair

There was a day when I, a little child,
Was dancing in the sunbeam’s shaft that filed
Or streamed across the chambered hallways of my mind
(I was all joy, no worlds were left to find)
And, laughing, whirled in rhythm with the luminous boats,
The spirit lights like golden notes
Singing in that high air.
“What are you doing on the basement stair?”
It was my mother’s voice. “How dare you? Just in underpants
And playing in the dust! You feel enhanced
I s’pose to be here smeared in dirt?”
She muttered more. I rose protesting pride against my hurt,
And still she would not stop. “I’ve never seen the like!”
I felt tears back against the dyke
Of my control, then overflow, broken on her reproof.
I dressed. She stood aloof.
And then I saw the lights were only motes,
grey dirt or grime against the cellar door, the kind of grit that floats
In any moldy air. The sun was gone,
So, too, the siren song.
It happened long ago, but oh! what I would give
To hear that song again, and like a child sieve
Dancing sunlight out of barren beams,
In dirt stand dazzled at God’s dreams.

(c)  2014  Sophy Burnham

Author of 13 books, Sophy Burnham has written novels, award-winning plays, nonfiction, short stories, children’s books, and numerous articles. Three of her books have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. But she’s particularly proud of For Writers Only (about creativity). Her works are translated into 26 languages. A grandmother of four, she plays chess (poorly), the piano (poorly), and rides her beautiful Arab (well). She teaches privately at “The Writer’s Room” and as a psychic and medium, gives readings (excellently!) by appointment. She lives in Washington D.C. See and her blog at


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