Squirrel Hill

“I can scarcely wait till tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.”
     — Stanley Kunitz, “The Round”
Eyes of the author.

Anita Byerly

PHOTO: Anita Byerly

Anita Byerly’s work has appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, The Ledge, The Exchange, The Loyalhanna Review, The Sandburg-Livesay Anthology, yawp, and 5AM. Her poems have also appeared online in poetry.net and poetrymagazine.com. Her published books include Digging a Hole to China, 2001; October Light, 2008; and Steam Rising, 2009. She’s been a guest on WYEP’s Prosody and an invited reader at Club Cafe and the South Side Poetry Smorgasboard. Anita passed away on November 21, 2009

Braddock Avenue

They’ll never come back: two furniture stores,
three banks, three movie houses — Capitol, Times,
and Paramount, where at 13 I let a strange boy
put his hand on my knee, then confessed it
to old Father Joe at St. Mary’s on Sixth Street;
and where at 21, a ring was slipped on my finger
while we watched “On the Town” in the dark.

I loved to shop the day before Christmas
at Shub’s for fresh roasted peanuts,
the smell catching you before you even got in the door.
I loved to stop at Och’s Delicatessen
for corned beef; Nill’s for poppy seed bread.
I loved bright lights strung across the street,
green wreaths, decorated trees in the windows —

before Braddock Avenue died, like the mill,
Carnegie’s first. Gone are DeRoy’s Jewelers,
Jaison’s, the Famous Department Store,
to the malls leaving boarded doors, blind windows.

Oh, to be there again before black Friday in Dallas
before that long funeral march down Pennsylvania Avenue
with the black riderless horse and the muffled drum cadence
reverberating on every Main Street, in every home.

Oh, to be back on Braddock Avenue
when our world was a Saturday matinee,
a dance at the Polish Falcons, where a tall woman
in a polka-dot blouse danced the schottische
with a short man in matching shirt, toupee awry.

Appeared in No Choice but To Trust, The Sandburg-Livesay Anthology, 2000 and poetrymagazine.com, 2001.

Iceman of Similaun

On September 19, 1991, hikers in the Tyrolean mountains discovered the 5,000 year old body of a man protruding from a glacier.

If I could speak,
I might tell
how I lay on the mountain
for 50 centuries,

where silent snow
fills the empty hollows
of space;
and the wind,
never ceasing, sweeps
through the chasms of time;

where the diadem of night,
embedded with cold light,
encircles my resting place,
and fire in the sky
melts my tomb of ice
drop by infinitesimal drop;

where you have found me
preserved, clothed in animal hide,
packed with straw for warmth,
one arm clutching my bow,
my flint pouch, the other extended
against death.

If I could speak
I might ask:
Do you
honor the mountain,
  respect the ice,
   guard the flame?

    Do you still sharpen
         your weapons
         for the kill?

Appeared in poetrymagazine.com, 2000.

Dust Motes

They are always there
invisible, elusive
but sometimes
in early morning
when a single shaft of sun
falls across the room
you can see them
sailing, dancing
floating free
like tiny snow flakes
all around you.

A wave of your hand
produces kinetic action,
but when, in delight,
you try to capture
a few in your palm
they vanish
like sprightly ghosts.

Perhaps they are remnants
of unfinished dreams,
ions of untapped energy,
particles of poems
that surround us every day
waiting to be revealed.

Appeared in yawp, 2000 and in poetrymagazine.com.