India: Step

by Pia Taavila

Because I chirped hello, I startled
Usha’s father. He fell the full length
of twelve marble steps. I stood above
the foyer, watched as each bony joint,
the crane-like skull, struck pink stone.

Usha cried out, bent to him, dabbed
with a corner of her cotton pullau.
Blood bloomed into her sari’s hem,
spread across the glistening tiles.
Slowly he rose, shaken, alive.

If only I could call them back,
withdraw my good intentions, restore
the railing to his hand, set down the out-
stretched foot. Years later, I still see
the mid-stride hope: safe landing.