poetry

Your 8th Birthday

To Lucas I forget the comet’s name I looked for all night but never found. You slept in the tent while I kept the fire going, hoping an arrow of light and dust might pierce the air so I could stir you from your coma and show you. We could’ve seen crumbs of ice dissolving …

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You in the Mountains

We ate thick waffles glazed with sugar, our tongues tasting the last of it from our lips, and the sky ran a pink river through its middle behind the trees growing black with each new firefly. Now, the plants in their clay pots disappeared into dusk. The red ashtray left with its pile of Marlboro …

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June 15, 2017

I imagine you feeling the heat on your shoulder as you leave your apartment. Maybe you touch the spot where the sun warms you: two inches above and to the left of your clavicle. My neighbors planted their tulips in March—I don’t know why I didn’t tell you—and this week the buds opened wide, became …

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Necessary City

I’m walking in hard rain in East Liberty            no umbrella   keeping direction bythe Cathedral rising over the roofs of this city I swore            I’d never live in.   Nico and Kai shopin Giant Eagle. I know he’s taking good care of him   probably            making him laugh   feeding himcheerios. I could leave   get in my car and …

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For the Small Hairs on My Ears

If I am turning wolf-like, a wolflight growing up within me now, how past fifty feels, fur just waiting to bristle, thistle, thorns, an urge to sleep at noon, pace the house all night, staring out through glass at strangers coming back from nearby bars— If I’m becoming something else, listening at the crack in …

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Perfection

Driving Rt. 48 I see the Lokay Lanes sign celebrating a 300 game and I am filled with longing. Never have I done anything the best it can be done; the feat must feel like the first big winter snow where new lovers shut themselves indoors stay in bed while white piles in inches on …

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First Grill

Overused, grates still crusted with trimmings, it wasn’t much but a dented Weber picked up at a yard sale north of Jackson, a yard I remember because there were children’s books scattered in the weeds and dolls missing their legs but no one around my age, and though for fifteen cents you could take home …

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These Days, I Spend My Time in the Rupture,

THESE DAYS, I SPEND MY TIME IN THE RUPTURE, coaxed by the prosody of steel ground into steel. What I mean is I anticipate the fetter of railroad tracks and trains: how sleep still sieves in the space of noise. My father says I refused sleep as a toddler unless carried, rumbling through fields on …

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Who Quotes Nero?

Poems have birthdays but no funerals. They somehow manage to outlive their creators as well as the times and cultures in which they were written. Why? How? Numerous answers have been given—some academic, others pedestrian, and still others with silence and a shrug. The common theme that appears in these various answers is that poems …

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Vacancy Inspection: Woodsboro Pike

I imagine her at these windows, looking out at fields in neat rows under a thin muslin of snow a week into the new year, emerging soft into the May air, ready for the combine in early November. She would know how the scene changes over the year, the exact angle at which the spring …

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Larimer Field

Before every game, before they hit us infield, the coaches yelled, “Line up,” and both teams, twenty-eight Little Leaguers, formed a skirmish, from the plate, down the left field line until it ended at the cyclone fence on Lenora Street where the old Abruzzese who didn’t speak English, and didn’t know baseball, except DiMaggio, sat …

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Tom Quirk

White beard and shaved head,A Merton-monkish masterWhose watercolor class put meThrough the wringer with itsTwenty-painting requirementFor my slow painstaking work.Impossible, and not just at first,But he kept me at it, down-Playing my complaints, offeringMaddening encouragements.By mid-term I’d begun to setMy figures against ever starkerBackgrounds till they wereBacked by nothing except The paper’s sheer white nap—A blankness …

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Three Pittsburgh Poets, Three Distinct Voices

Poetry can mean different things to different people. For some, it’s celebrating the glorious music found in the end-rhymes of Robert Frost. For others, it’s a love of language poetry or blunt confessionalism. For Pittsburgh’s Sam Hazo, former Poet Laureate of Pennsylvania, it’s the “visionary” poetry of T.S. Eliot and Seamus Heaney. Hazo, in his …

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Fence

All morning through my window I watch a man building a fence  In my neighbor’s yard. He’s old, Almost as old as I am, too old  For this kind of work. It’s spring— The first blossoms of the apple tree  Spread their light above him.  He lifts and drops The post-hole digger all morning.  At …

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Highland Meadows, Allegheny County, 1979

Sunday afternoons, we escaped across green waves of fenceless yards, hopscotched streets with split- level homes—their windowed eyes and garages’ open mouths. We screamed past the chained dog’s bark, lawns skirted with azaleas or crowned with the Virgin Mary. We lifted animals like bracelets from creeks and sat on Central Pharmacy’s curb snapping twigs of …

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Close to Home: Local Poets Get Personal

If all politics is local, perhaps all good poetry might be considered local, as well. Consider how setting and description flavor the Homestead poems of Robert Gibb and the Detroit poems of Jim Daniels. In his seminal essay collection on poetic craft, “The Triggering Town,” poet Richard Hugo asks writers to ground their work, saying …

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80’s Body Shop Elegy

We kept the radio on all day long. The news came on at noon. Reagan, Nicaragua, Iran. Tommy brushed his fingertips over the freshly primed fender of another rust-bucket Monte Carlo, feeling for waves, bows, any imperfections in the once rotted places he’d filled and shaped with fiberglass resin. Next door, the whitewashed Lighthouse Salvation …

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[15] Phosphorus

At school I volunteered to set the lab stockroom in order. Sealed in a navy lab coat I took inventory. Gathered for disposal crumbling samples, mystery solutions. Rewrote acid-rotted labels. Re-pickled a funnel-web. Marvelled at copper’s rosy gleam. Dusted the jar of white phosphorus, a sullen chunk stored underwater. Like it, I felt my power …

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Poetic Mission

With its deep pool of talented writers, Pittsburgh punches well above small-city status, especially among poetry circles. Reasons for this embarrassment of riches include the exposure many local poets receive for work that wins them awards, ample workshops, university writing programs with strong reputations and a vibrant scene that features readings nearly every night of …

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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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