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Poem about Pittsburgh Houses

by David Blair


My parents’ house took a beating
the winter my mother was going—
blizzards, ice busting gutters,
the wallpaper stained with run-off.
March came, and then it was April.
The grass came up green and flaked
with thin leaves of slate roof shingles.
“I’ll be going up soon myself,”
my dad said to me, as we were drunk,
or at least I was, swaying, delaying,
all of us together at home two nights
before the funeral. Our TV room
where we watched Petticoat Junction
(“there’s Uncle Joe / he’s moving kind of slow /
at the junction”)
and other moronic kid reruns
was originally an entranceway
or acted that way
with a curved ceiling—the carriage
drop-off at the old Pennsylvania RR
station downtown was a gesture itself
when mansions were pulled down
as eyesores and for more lots,
between Forbes and Fifth Avenue;
with stained glass on top
of the airy first floor
windows that did not open
above windows that opened like doors
attached to soft metal levers,
of a first modernism,
of straitening, the books less gilded,
the embossed designs
set a millimeter less deeply,
but still decorative, opening
onto green sycamores, with intercom
wiring buried in the old time walls
up along a laundry chute,
and voices still rasped not by us
from a kitchen room
to a maid’s bedroom, houses
built for lawyers, for ledger
men, for once gleaming knights
of analysis, doctors, engineers.
There was a coal room,
a cherry tree.
Potato and chicken every week
in our baked non-moment
to be followed by another—
how to see the present,
how to see the past.

 

David Blairís first book, Ascension Days, won the Del Sol Poetry Prize. His poems have recently appeared in Barnstorm, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Ploughshares, Slate, and storySouth. He is associate professor at the New England Institute of Art in Brookline, Massachusetts. (10/2011)


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