I burn your Highland Park. I acid your Carnegie
car dealerships. Your Squirrel Hill, sheer terror
in winter. But most of all, I hate your Liberty Avenue,
the last place, one night, I saw my closest friend
saying, Wait here, outside the after-hours club. I wait,
hating your Strip, half your Shadyside, all of Bloomfield,
the bluffs and flats where my friend trades himself.
I wait hours, then trace your Mexican War
Streets looking for his car, so I could declare a truce
in the battle he was fighting against himself. Your Hot
Metal, your Fort Pitt Bridge that leads headfirst
into the Monongahela. In the morning, he's home.
He cannot tell me where it hurts. I help him shower
off the Duquesne residue, the priesting old world
shame. Pittsburgh, you're all grit and gristle turning crystal
track marks, turning a man meth mouth. I feed him,
put him to bed. I'll keep watch tonight in a cable car
ascending Mt. Washington, your smokestacks
blowing clouds over the confluence until all you are,
Pittsburgh, is a sleepless shimmer I will watch
diminish down to the savaged seed of morning,
as impossible to watch as you are to name.
After he died, my father made
whole, I could see him next
to my mother as she smoked
on the couch, his face more alive
than at Christmas, the last time
I saw him, struggling to lift his cup.
I knew beyond my body, now he’d died,
he could show off a row of teeth, wry
and silly, smiling again to score
some irony in the situation. But
the days I was home, he didn’t smile.
My mother was in pain, he was her
source, he grieved alongside her.
And though he died the same day
as my father, my student waited a week
to show. At first, his back was all
he’d allow, the twist and sweep of curls
that were his character—another boy
Apollo would have loved. He was shy
about his neck. I said please, I needed
to see where he’d been hurt. The purple
pinched and dug at the base
of his throat. He couldn’t say or breathe
what happened but I saw deep in him
the furious glimmer. Our dead return,
wanting us to know there is no end.
Even suffering outlives this body.