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PQ Poem

Underheard

1 He had the window seat. After take-off he said, “My line is socks; what’s yours?” I said I was a writer. He smiled his least impressive smile. “What do you write?” “I hope they are poems.” ‘Where are you headed now? I told him I’d been invited to recite my poems at a university. …

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On Broken Hollow Bridge

Answering Darlene Howard’s snotty dare, I hoisted myself up to the handrail, as thick as a balance beam, but slick with summer rain and wet rust. Knees bent, arms out to my sides, I straightened, chin up, staring ahead. Kicking off my sandals, I took my first tentative steps, peeling corrosion sticking to my skin, …

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Kitchen

Its scent was more like the bread Grandma’s fingers shaped, rising warm to my nose than the ash of her Salem’s crushed in thick glass trays, her coffee cup ringed black after finishing a smoke. That candy jar glazed butterscotch, plump atop her laminate table we used for Go Fish, the cards dumbed down below …

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At Western Psych

On the dayroom TV screen, the Gladiator hallucinates in the desert. Golden lions and ghost horses scream. Filmed light flickers like tears on drugged un/watchful faces. Everyone is shoeless, their socks dark green. The water fountain is bandaged in a towel, leaking like a bad burn. The inmates queue to drink the dribble, scolded by …

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i am the sea

that january. prestwick beach. the sea heaves. swallows herself down like cough syrup in thick slow gulps. we’d sat on this rock just two days before, both of us with our backs to the world staring out across and into the thickness. i counted a thousand and one seagulls that day watched them huddle together, …

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The Myriad Lives I Lead Inside My Own

Observe the day. Observe how it is spring warm in the middle of winter, the sky unclouded blue, the air full of undefined promise. Observe my daughter’s excitement at the prospect of a birthday party, running with arms flapping, singing for the joy of it, unbridled, unrestrained. Observe how picturesque all the houses look on …

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Naming It

There should be a name for it: driving into a spring storm with the sun behind you, the spray kicking up from the interstate, the stacked periwinkle clouds, the sunlight still glowing into the trees, finding the naked white birch, the new green of the underbrush. Light has a name for high contrast chiaroscuro, and …

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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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