2009 Third Prize
In the morning Pittsburgh moves mechanically,
rises its sun over the rivers and bridges
like our public bus fighting its way over the top of a hill.
The city pulls on levers and lowers the big-top blue sky.
The asphalt rolls by five days a week.
It’s not Madrid,
but when the sun unfurls itself
I feel like it could be.
The light fills the womb
and I bloom like winter’s gone for good.
I think I’ve seen every city,
you think this town rolls into the rest
like you roll your r’s.
Downtown they roll hoagies,
on Forbes they roll joints.
Home for us is a nest on the roof of a building block,
chubby hands forming us out of clay.
In my mind, the fountains never dry up.
If I could I would take you home.
If there were something under the dust
I would shake this city out
like a sheet left unchanged
for too many months.
Even in my discomfort
I feel safe in these streets,
even in your discomfort
I reluctantly call this my home.
Pigeons nod good morning every day,
abortion protestors bob their bald heads
even when I don’t take a pamphlet.
Nights used to scare me but
mornings scared me more.
One morning I got off at the wrong stop
and a big man in a parka
called me “honey” and helped me get to school.
I teetered along in heels that day
until I eventually broke them off and threw them
at the pavement.
That day a trash can called me pretty.
A hobo shared his lunch.
I sat down on a park bench and I never got up.