Squirrel Hill


Eyes of the author.

Sheila Carter-Jones

PHOTO: Sheila Carter-Jones

Sheila Carter-Jones has been described by Herbert Woodward Martin as one who writes with "immediacy of tone, voice and language." Much of her work to date charts in images and music the lived experiences of a small-town girl brought up in a house across from the boney dump of Republic Steel Coal Mines outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has been published in Pennsylvania Review, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Tri-State Anthology, Blair Mountain Press, and Flights. Grace Cavalieri, producer and host of "The Poet and the Poem, from the Library of Congress," says that Sheila's recent book, Blackberry Cobbler Song, "premiers a narrative poet in the greatest tradition of American storytellers."

Helmet Head

In the driveway a grasshopper hops the hood
clings as an ornament while I ride the passenger seat
shotgun, wild woman throwing peyote dust,
turning my car into a cluster of white palomino
clomping to pow-wow in the high desert.

My father on the day of his funeral
changed into a white bird. A seagull.
He had never been to the edge, never too
far past sulfur brown in the creek, but I had
once seen what could have been a gull gliding
above the Allegheny River, out of place
in the gray over Pittsburgh.

It is the same coughed up sky I saw
when my father’s red-brown skin stretched death-ash
after living in coal mines, shaping dirtscapes
for rich people; boulders, manure, bulbs’ stinking
possibilities buried in hardened feces like cape castle
walls made of human excrement. Millions
of embedded hearts still pulse there

like mine does now as I lean — my body
half out the window, screaming a fist at the grasshopper.
It hugs the hood with all six feet, madman with helmet head
bent to the wind. Wings press against abdomen,

protect the singing heart inside segmented armor-shell.
No need to flick it for choice of song, force of wind
will knock the helmet off as we gain speed;
it will tumble backward, splatter on the windshield,
become a dot.