If the Elevator Tries to Bring You Down, Go Crazy

Honorable Mention: 2024 Philadelphia Stories Poetry Contest

When Prince sings I Would Die 4 U

I know he’s singing the number 4,

the capital letter U, and I believe

there are things worth dying for.

I can hear their chopped off heads trailing

behind Prince’s motorcycle

waiting for the moment they bounce

together and kiss inside a cloud of exhaust.


His motorcycle is a storm,

a purple nebula flashing

magnetized lighting in the distant reaches

of space, where his light is travelling

still, untouched by death. I would die

for just about anything large enough

to love so easily: Your hair.

The taste of dehydration. The idea of you

towering above the actual me.

Your head mouths a letter

and then an alphabet.

Your head spells a word, rain.

Or was it pain?


Prince is touching down,

one wheel, then the other

kisses the ground. I want to warn him

that it’s too late, ask you

to help me lift him back into the sky

before history catches up,


but I don’t see you anymore.

And it’s not too late. You say


there’s more beyond each beheaded

word, outside the constellations

of hurt. As the elevator doors close

Prince says something about going crazy.

He’s still alive, his motorcycle still dragging

the future behind it like a parade.

Von Wise received his MFA for Creative Writing from Florida International University. He teaches English composition and creative writing in Philadelphia, where he lives.