escend says Milton to Urania. But oh what a feeling, Richie sings to her, when you’re dancing on the ceiling. Dante wrote something about descending too. But Astaire dances up there, suspended upside down, scuffing the rafters. Poppins, even the windblown floater Poppins, says come back down here. Urania feels sobered when Mary Poppins says it’s time to go home. That takes the laughter out of anyone, especially the uncle who loves having friends over and up for tea. The more the glee, sings the uncle, the more I’m a merrier me. When he is sad, Urania notices, he is lead crystal, not ethereal like a laugh, and so he plumes right down.
      Urania is a very whimsical yet serious little girl who loves music, movies, dancing, and books. She wears rings on every finger; the rings are made of aluminum foil, some encasing a sparkly bead. Despite the songs about laughing your way up to the ceiling, despite the ceiling tea parties and tap dances in the movies, Urania used to be afraid of ceilings. Is there asbestos in there? she wanted to know. Are there beehives? She feared the ceiling could drop and crush her breathing. At night she thought she saw sinister faces looming on the ceiling. Milton? she asked, peeking though the lace edge of her bedsheet. Is that you up there? Is that me? She heard hooves and giant wings clattering through the ceiling’s plaster.
      Urania didn’t trust ceilings until she found pictures of ceiling paintings in a great big book. There were mommies in blue drapes holding babies, and the babies had gauzy gold halos. Angels and cherubs floated around the ceilings. What she liked best: stars painted on ceilings, each one adding light until she could hardly notice the scariness of a ceiling for its stars. Urania began gluing silver aluminum foil bits to her bedroom ceiling in the pattern of her favorite planets and constellations. Maybe a ceiling seems scary, Urania thought, because it is not the sky.
      It is taking Urania a long time to paste up all the foil stars, pushing makeshift scaffolding—piles of encyclopedias—around her bedroom and balancing on them. She does not mind ruining the bindings of her encyclopedias; she has already photographed A to Z’s entries with her memory. Dragging books around is not amusing, though. She tries all the dancing and giggling and singing she has seen in the movies, but none of it causes spontaneous ascension. Nevertheless, perching atop a “Mnemosyne to Mytilene” volume, Urania decides there must be a way for her to sneak past gravity.
      She is studying with a schoolteacher who makes letters in the air with translucent silk. He tosses silk up to the ceiling. It slips into the shape of a script letter, and stays up in the air for a moment… a real moment, a long one, you can take a sigh and everything, before the fabric falls. Urania reads script very well for her age. She sits upon silk pillows stuffed with scraps of silk and watches the old man throw his letters. Each silk letter is like a ballet dancer leaping and staying up awhile. Please stay up, stay up! is what Urania wishes into every letter’s ascent, just before it lights down. A silk “U” falls into Urania’s ringed fingers, which delights her. Suddenly she is rising.