PQ Poem

Ghost Park

Ghost Park The dog took off near the backhoe stuck in its rutand I followed through tan brush,watching his white shape zip up the mud path. A plateau halfway up the city mountain:an abandoned basketball court,chain-link strangled by vines,backboard standing indecisive abovea spread of soggy beer-cases, broken bottles, crinkled cans.Of course, a used condom here …

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Finny Cora

Finny Cora Finbar bolted down a big breakfastand walked with his best humanto the greenwhere he had his morning poop–on the way back twenty paces from homeall four feetwent out from under him . . . heart gone that mercifully quick Cora outlived her mateby three yearsslowing down. . . and down . . . …

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monkey bars

monkey bars it’s lifting your feet as trains pass,holding your breath near graves—it’s hidingshivers as you angel in the snow. it’s filling your rain boots with puddles,water-logged Velcrotoo soggy to stick––it’s gum, decades-old,decayingunder desks.  it’s crunching leavesonce they orange;their sound bites like brown-bagged lunch—it’s cartons of milk curdlingin heatwaves. it’s stuffing inch wormsin pocketsand forgettingby laundry day—it’s hanginghand-me-downsyou’re sureare shrinking.  it was sitting on daddy’s suitcase,your …

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I Could Live There

I Could Live There A colonial perchedon a leafy hillside—its yarda backslope of rhododendronand weed, a bit of grasshere and there— I could live there, I thinkas the train rolls by. But then I see a perfect woodof evenly spaced pinesand long to lie on the warmed fallen needles, their scent a relieffrom housekeeping tedium.I …

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When Did Prison Become My Home?

When Did Prison Become My Home? My wife had to leave me first,saying so over the phone,the fifteen-minute inmate call long enoughfor her to speak pregnant & separationso I knew my home was not my home.Then came work, waving its armslike a candidate for office,promising a few extra dollarsin my trustee account. Too,I wrote poems …

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mountebank afternoon

mountebank afternoon (for angele ellis) contrails fadesun tries to breathelife into the old city mission the art deco erawritten in lamppostwatched by eaglesbronzed in way back the wind across mountebankafternoon stretches a flagto the point it could break then take to the skya kite of a freedom imaginedlike the leaves that decoratethese hillsides bare trees

Interstate Five

Interstate Five What remains of these lost deltasafter the mills shut down: an artof disappearing, black-windowed bars,the towers of a closed factorystill blinking their red lights to hideno work’s inside. For yearsI drove past these roadside dinerscarved out of rain, trailer parks linedwith European trees, the truck stopwhere cigarette smoke driftsinto the air like a …

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Colors

Colors Blood-red was all the rage that year — in the fashion magazines and the furniture showrooms.  So, now we had the new loveseat, my mother’s find — the fabric called blood-red, but it looked older and dried up. Something closer to rust. The walls of my room were a perfect sky blue and my …

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Empty Hands

Empty Hands I dream you naked in a worldwhere touch is forbidden this is death, this is longingempty hands squeezing air.

Evacuate My Brain

Evacuate My BrainAlong that wallI could be quietin the dark—club kids, drag queensbrush by in a stiff hitof hairspray, cigarettes,something candysweethoney bring it close to my lipsI’d stand there smoking,watch the crowd on the floormove as a whole, look for facesI know, faces that surprise me,faces I might want—honey bring it close to my lips …

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of what is not written, the archive only dreams

of what is not written, the archive only dreams When the archive dreams of Pittsburgh, smoke poursfrom the stacks, and librarians don goggles, wrap the booksin tarp. When the archive dreams of Pittsburgh, I perch on an overhead crane and watch as a silhouetteemerges from a row of hook blocks, shimmingwith a pole to flip …

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In the Portrait Gallery

In the Portrait Gallery Faces of no one I know, some of themstern-eyed, the rooms they sat in soot dark with coal fires & still births.Thus was born stoicism & the Age of Exploration. I lived that way for decades—alternating between hermitage & pilgrimage; the yin & yang of grim & grin.Sure, the men in …

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Highway 491

If it happens that this road is heaven,close your eyes. On the drive acrosssuch a vast country as heaven must be,the road waves as this one does.Its graceful long arcs lead all the wayto the horizon. And isn’t it sothe road stretches even beyond there?You’ll find you’ve been here all alongon Highway 491. On maps just …

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October

On his birthday she whispered, bereft,and understood her place in the scheme of things.The man next door walked his cocker spaniel,a plastic bag in his hand. The kettle began to steam. At the park she found her bench was takenby a man in an Irish sweater, so went a little furtherand sat beneath the linden. …

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A Moment

While chops sizzle and onions brown,the radio intones failures, floods, and fires,and the family cries its needs, Step out the kitchen doorTrain your eyes on the clouds, rumpled on the darkening sky  How big are they, you wonder, and where is that cicada with its kazoo, and the bees that all day probed the flowers? How far is …

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Homewood Poem

Stranahan, steepest hill in Homewood, pulls my primary-school bones like iron filings across an etch-a-sketch from Belmar at the top to flat Apple Street running across its base near 7101, Mystery Manor. Bought by Woogie Harris, the gangster banker, in the 30’s. In rabbit fur maxi-coats, chinchilla-draped shoulders, jewel-studded t-straps, and wingtips, people stepped from …

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February Night

—for Hil Winter rain drummingthe pond ice beyond the gate.One light burns overthe stove, bright enough that hecan make out the easy drift of her hip slopinginto the turned-down blanket.The warm length of her.The warm length of heragainst him. Cold rains. He feeds the fire.

When Life Could Be a Dream

When American Bandstand dancersin Philly skipped across our TV screenson the pony, hip swiveled to the twist,jumped up and back in the locomotion,our Platter Pushin’ Papa in Pittsburgh’sroller arenas and high school gyms spun usonto slick dance floors for slow grindsto doo-wop love crush melodies highon falsetto and low blow of saxophone.Sent us us out on …

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Poem Ending With a Line from Tomas Tranströmer (via Robin Robertson)

Oh to be veeringalong Baum Boulevardto the beatus via north,where the squalls of Mercer vanish for a minute, horizon a violet knife-cut, curtainof snow throbbingat the grade’s bottom—none of which you’ll know, my dear,no matter how loudthe ringing tambourines of ice.

Colonial Tea Room

At 5 AM you’re buttering the bagels and waiting for your city sewer man to heave himself out of a hole in Barclay Street and bring you a breakfast order for his crew.  The list is smudged and long and flush with desire: burned bacon on a jelly-smeared bialy, cold brisket on a kaiser, side of gravy, and Flop …

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Essential Worker

There was only one blackemployee at our school,Danny the janitor who cleaned up the crumbs fromour Little Debbie cakesat lunch. Danny, who scrubbed the toilets, the muscled thirty-something guy whobecame our protector, who broke up playground fightsand chased down basketballs,raised us up so we could  dunk on a ten-foot rim.Danny, whose closet was by the library where …

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Freight: Passing Through

I resonate over banks of the Ohio cense with soot the river straitjacketed  between walls built for restraint. I cast my voice out over Neville Island intertwine with suspect air. In haste and power I slice with authority  the boredom of the highway,  its hum a faucet left unchecked. A presence inescapable,  I penetrate the …

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