Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

The Ladder

Tazewell Street, Downtown Norfolk

The inner city
with stain glass windows
was where you sat
in a wooden pew
and listened,
wondering how
so beautiful
a story
could be made
as dull as the
without blood.

But the streets
to which you
scampered off
were different.

If only
you could look up
and see
the sky.

You didn’t take
the steps of
the shadow
but the ladder itself
that led not
as in Jacob’s dream
to heaven
but a rooftop
where instead of
with a concrete block
for a pillow
you stood
as the bright light

Poem by Tom Simard
Sketch by John Spiers

With this sketch, my attention was immediately drawn to the ladder and its shadow. And from there certain idea began to form and eventually found their way into words.

To find out more about John’s other creative work, please visit 1 Graphic 50 Words.



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11 thoughts on “The Ladder

  1. Smashing poem, Tom!

    In all English verse, I’m not sure there’s a description of the eucharist I like better than this one. Not that I am a collector or anything, but, as you know, one notices such things if he has had his own life encounters with the whole host-y, ghost-y business. A close runner-up might be: Wilfred Owen’s provocative bit in Maundy Thursday about lining up to take communion for ulterior reasons. (Read it here:

    I am impressed by the illustration of Mr. Spiers as well.


  2. Thanks for the kind words, arjcee.
    Aren’t his sketches great? One of the things I never expected was to be writing poems inspired by drawings; I’m really enjoying it.


  3. Lovely, Tom. Your drawing and poem brought back memories of the tune, “Up on the Roof,” recorded by the Drifters in 1962.


  4. Another song she wrote – and there were many!


  5. Great poem and drawing combo. The words nicely grab the promise not delivered by religions in visual terms that hook up seamlessly with the picture. The drawing reinforces the words by implying—but not showing, as our point of view is ground level—the possibility of the unselfconscious joy in the midst of adversity like John Sloan’s roof top images do, while in denying that likelihood by being drawn in the style of Piranesi’s prisons which are, IMHO, metaphors for his then and our still institutionalized society of which “the church” remains a big part.


  6. Thanks, Howard.
    I don’t know Sloan or Piranesi but will make myself familiar with them. Always great to be introduced to new artists and their works.


  7. I’ve been looking at some Piranesi – just incredible. He is an artist I plan on getting to know very well.


  8. Despite getting here so very late, the mention of the Eucharist makes it sort of timely.

    Loved the inside/outside (church/rooftop) contrast. I think I’ve said before that what I like about your poetry and good poetry in general (or my version of “good” anyway) is that it matters to me in some way, or reminds me of something. In this case, I’m reminded of a wonderful evening on a Brooklyn rooftop around the turn of the century. And of course, I’ve spent many a bored hour on pews.


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