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PQ Poem

O Say Can’t You See?

We shout when we should be discussing, and the country in chaos accepts it. We shoot when we should be disarming, and the country in chaos accepts it. We claim that the poor are just lazy, and the country in chaos accepts it. We budget to build bigger prisons, and the country in chaos accepts …

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Still Life with Leg Brace & Pontiac

We’re standing next to my grandfather’s ‘73 Grand Prix — newly polished, royal blue — my mother, my grandmother and I. I’m five years old, dressed in a wide collar suit and plaid tie. Under my pants, my leg brace — with its cork lift, metal bars, and leather straps — reaches to my groin. …

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26 + 6 = 1

The first time I went up north to Belfast, a helicopter hovered overhead. Very young and very nervous soldiers with guns too large for their skinny bodies carried their fears across the darkened streets. In the Europa lobby, the guide bragged, “This is the most bombed hotel in the world.” We stayed in a lovely …

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Matter of Light

A matter of light, part of the tree’s shade over the yard, a zelkova leaf, narrow palm of the rustbelt in April, green tints, then little by little turning red, a leaf surviving first snows, becoming half furled, wing ruffled, in the uncharted scales of ice, their lunar tarnish, and around it, leaf by leaf …

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Pittsburgh’s Famed Stairways to…

“Pittsburgh is undoubtedly the cockeyedest city in the United States. Physically, it is absolutely irrational. It must have been laid out by a mountain goat…And then the steps—oh, Lord, the steps!” –Syndicated Columnist Ernie Pyle, 1937 (as qtd. in “Steps of Pittsburgh”) “Long stairway in mill district of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.” 1940 Medium-format nitrate negative by …

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It Only Made Sense

After my mother died, my sister found a bundle of yellowed letters: how my dad had planned to skip out, to leave the States with someone he’d met, a Brit. Beautiful, no doubt. But he didn’t leave. Not then, anyway. Someone talked him out of it: my German grandfather, the dour Ernest, who never said …

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Just Because

I know there are things that you ain’t supposed to do and will probably get you a good whipping if you’re caught but you’ll do them anyway just because and for no other reason than just because. Like you ain’t supposed to play with matches just because you can burn someone’s porch down or shoot …

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Miscalculations

I. Through my in-laws’ breakfast window in the country, the nuthatches roll and bounce and shake spiny winter brambles. Their breasts puffed round as if to fit in the hand of a child. I scrape rings of hardened milk from my coffee mug while I confuse the birds for chickadees and search for spring. II. …

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Blue Bra 

She was out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square saying no to the theft of her future, her blue bra cupping young breasts, exposed when soldiers bludgeoned her for defending hard-won revolution, ripped off her concealing  abaya, stomped her slender chest. The bright blue bra shining out went viral, proclaimed that under the heavy layers men hide …

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Omar Moreno

What could that have been like, stadium rimmed With Serbs, Poles, and the Jews, too, happy drunk Beside big-armed Russians and mellow black cats From Homewood, and the lathered Irish wails From the men’s rooms, and each one with the balmy Music of your name cresting the tides that poured out Of wide open mouths …

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4th of July, Pittsburgh

Six years ago it was Chicago, a party at Jeff’s. Nate was still alive. It was the night we made out on the train. I locked myself out of my apartment and had to call Eddie the Maintenance Man, drunk, to let me in, prayed I had $40 in my bank account to cover the …

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Latin Mass

A hawk taloned to a light post above the frozen pond. Two boys shovel a rink. An altar boy in Zagreb, my father-in-law mumbled, in lieu of Latin, the same nonsense I did in Detroit—kneeling at the altar, riffing the Confiteor. Then bodies from war stacked up in pews, and his priest melted away, silent …

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Poetry

I too dislike it the mystified truisms the dusty puzzle-prunes the theatrical exaggerations: “the brutal crescendo of woodworms”– yet I think of O’Hara’s delight in the endless pleasures of quotidian life and Duhamel throwing a dozen balls in the air and juggling them all Frank said only a few poems are as good as the …

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Assisted Living

“Every simile’s an insurrection” (unknown) Her phone is like a cordless baby. Her children are a blur of programmed digits. Each week she learns new rituals to survive, from toothbrush to spoon. Her softball glove, her Raleigh 3-speed are not even memory. Her new sports are dress, food, hygiene. A slalom course to every doorknob. …

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When I Am Empty

When I am empty I think about you staring back at me in the pouring rain— the family picnic in the Upper Peninsula, my grape pop spilling down the sides of the table, an empty bottle, your lips turned into a smirk, your eyes glinting, you in that moment loving me. I’m empty on the …

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Blending Image and Word

Ekphrasis first began as a rhetorical form used by the ancient Greeks. Defined by Webster’s as “a literary description of or commentary on a visual work of art,” it remains one of the oldest forms of artistic analysis, dating back to Homer’s description of Achilles’ blacksmith god-created shield in The Illiad. This form of writing …

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Miraculous

I found the miraculous in the dim lamp that hung above your head, swinging. I found the miraculous in the hospital lobby— a bag of candy hearts left by a child whose mother ached in a blue chair. The voices of sick and well mingled across the linoleum floor. I found the miraculous in the …

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Homewood Cemetery

My husband and I walk its paths at dusk in the lessening light when heat and humidity ease. There is much life among these graves— deer browse, wild turkeys run and flirt, groundhogs and chipmunks hide in shadows. Red-winged blackbirds flash across the pond, land on reeds that surround it. Water lilies bloom, a thick …

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Walking

My first walk is also my first memory— On the purple carpet, in the living room Of that bungalow in the suburbs built For the soldiers who returned from the war. One parent directed me towards the other,  Who waited with open arms, Both of them smiling, encouraging,  My brothers on the stairway cheering.  No,  …

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For James Wright

You write about shyness the shyness of daylight along the Ohio River like a girl brushing her hair in a boarding house looking for privacy— in one of your poems morning arrives naked uncomfortable shivering in the valley offering only a glimpse of herself to ironworkers electricians millwrights carpenters for the first time like a …

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Avalon Creek

Slung over one sturdy branch hung low but high enough Swing that rode June skies for months that flung us up and out Above cool awnings shaded trees swing that bent the back of oaks Thick rope wound tight knotted twine stolen from Clarence Weingartner’s barn Strung by brothers sworn enemies awful boys Frayed ends …

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Sleeping Apart

Sometimes he decides to sleep in the spare room & there is a part of me glad. He wants the TV on I don’t. We both snore & bother each other with it. He says I steal covers, I say he moves past middle if I get up for the bathroom In summer, there are …

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