Saturday Poem / Attention Amazon: Pittsburgh

This poem appeared on December 15, 2017 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


What land is this, what city?
Aren’t other places as precious to those who dwell within them?
Probably they are. Well, perhaps.

But here instead of sunshine there are gray skies,
gloom as delicious as heavy dark beer.
Green hills that slope into swift deep rivers,
moving their own way, no one else’s.
Old trees all over town, in the parks, lining city sidewalks,
along the broken alleys.

Neighborhoods of stone mansions.
Neighborhoods of clean aluminum-sided and red-brick houses.
Porches with swings, blooming gardens.

Grand old families, lying dead in leafy cemeteries,
near towers and libraries and museums and universities bearing their names.
Tough old ethnic families, lying dead in leafy cemeteries, near riverbanks
where mills rose up to manufacture the steel for trains and autos that opened up the country; wheels and planes and tanks and weapons
that saved the world again and again.

And we the living descendants, the incredible mix of all here before us,
the boys and girls of the adversaries turned friends: Wasps and the Hunkies,
the Blacks and the Jews, the Italians and Asians, we are the heirs
to the first river traders and fur hunters, the freed slaves,
the immigrant industrial barons and immigrant mill hands.

And that sometimes adversarial past.
The burning truth of Out Of This Furnace.
The ‘36 confrontation at Republican Steel.
The birth agony of big steel and big labor.
And since, the death agony, too.

Okay. A grand old city (old for America, that is)
with an interesting past, wonderful people, a lousy climate (some think).
So why the heart pull, looking at the hills? Hills, you might say, are hills.

But we who live here know something. Pittsburgh’s been good to us.
We forgive. We co-exist. We get along.