Essay on Fear in Cellar Stairs

1021 Words5 Pages
Fear in Cellar Stairs Poetry is about emotion -- not only the emotion displayed in the many layers of a poem's language, but also the emotional layers created in the reader. Some poetry can be light and happy, other poetry can be ecstatic and ethereal; and at the opposite extreme, poetry can be dark and downright threatening. Such a poem is "Cellar Stairs" by the contemporary poet Thomas Lux. "It's rickety down to the dark," states the first line. The poem starts out with an image of darkness, compounded by the feeling of instability ("rickety"). The lack of any physical room or area leaves us feeling disoriented and groundless. All we know is that we are going…show more content…
But we are still afraid. Lines five through nine describe the normally harmless objects that reside on the shelf. This time, though, the objects are dangerous. Everything has an edge -- the shears, the weed "hacker," the ice pick -- except the poison, which can kill both kinds of vermin, rats and bugs (6-7). A triple threat, the shelf: we can be poisoned either of two ways or stabbed. The landing, normally a safe area on any flight of stairs, is also trapped: the keg of roofing nails that beckons your face to slam into it (8-9). This describes another level of emotion, as well. We have progressed from being afraid of the dark to being scared for our life. The specific threats have been identified and we are under attack. Lines ten through eighteen become globally symbolic of torture, while maintaining the chilling level of personal threat. The fuse box goes from a damning symbol of sin (the "slot machine" - gambling is a sin) (11) to a symbol of death (the switch for the electric chair that "the warden pulls") (12). The author speaks of the boots, singular, on every stair, alone (14-16). The "dead" left them there, "short-legged" on their way down to the Hell at the bottom of the stairs (16-17).
Open Document