Chera Hammons

Night Elevator


My ghost arrives seventeen minutes late to turn on the lights. That's how much the time on the security camera is out of sync as I enter yesterday's footage. It’s startling, to see my body from that distance. The figure doesn’t look the way it feels when I wear it. I play my entrance over and over until I could be anyone.

I fast forward through the drudge that was Tuesday. Strangers keep trying the door on the right that doesn’t work. I can turn back time so the delivery man leaves mysterious gifts over and over, if I don't mind their taking back, too.

But the best footage is at night, when the elevator doors in the foyer open and close in the darkness without being called. No one is there to get on or off of them, or to hear their cables groan. I can't bring myself to tell maintenance about it. Those sudden, bright angles are the only hint of a higher floor.

I can bleed the days and nights together, speed the lives of the elevators into a dance of shadows where, for a moment, a man in a suit freezes, foot out, briefcase swinging back, then vanishes while the time startles and bounds in the bottom corner.

Every morning on the monitor, too, I watch my earliest co-worker arrive in real-time, study what she's wearing and how she fixed her hair, then hide that I did before she can guess how well I watch what happens in our office.

On the screen she can't see, the past is unreeling again. The elevators, the janitors, the bum who tries the locked doors every morning at two. My ghost appearing seventeen minutes late and the room, seconds later— how it shines.


Calling In


I won’t say where I am going.

The tally of crows gets higher. They rise
from telephone poles and fence posts.

They look like scraps of black garbage bags
loosened from branches.

I won’t say where I am going, but today,
there are no rooms of dissatisfied children

who are hungry, or a beige office
that has carpet pressed as close to the ground

as it can get, and walls that are cold,
and no windows with light that reaches in.

The phone will cry and cry all the time.
I am not going, as I told them,

to have my temperature taken by quiet people in white coats
whose stairwell smoke sticks like a fog to their shoulders.

I don’t have to talk about the weather.

I don’t have to tell anyone, if they ask, that I am going
neither to heaven nor to hell,

with no belief in either. I might say this:
that the trees stretch from the earth in the medians,

raising their arms to the sun
and growing heavier the farther they get from ground,

but even the ones beside the road
are beautiful in their leaning,

each one a different shape against its own allotment of wind.
Out of the treeline, a lone coyote hesitates,

then steps, shimmering in the lifting heat,
onto the shoulder of the highway.

        return to poetry

Chera Hammons is a graduate of the MFA program at Goddard College. Her work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Rattle, Stoneboat, THRUSH, Tupelo Quarterly, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Her chapbook Amaranthine Hour received the 2012 Jacar Press Chapbook Award. Books include Recycled Explosions (Ink Brush Press, 2016) and The Traveler's Guide to Bomb City (Purple Flag Press, 2017). She lives in Amarillo, TX, and serves on the editorial board of poetry journal One.