Squirrel Hill
Poetry Workshop
“That’s all there is, and you could go blind looking for it!”
motto, handed down through generations of women.
Eyes of the author.

Erin Garstka

PHOTO: Erin Garstka

Erin Garstka won the 1999 Taproot Literary Review Contest, and she has been a featured reader at Bloomfield Sacred Arts Festival. Her poetry has appeared in The Lyric, Mediphors, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Loyalhanna Review, and The Exchange. She and her husband Mark conduct a local poetry forum, Monroeville Poets. Invisible River Publishing released her chapbook, The Thought of a Hat (2003).

Hearing the Light
“I am the Holy Spirit …Sound of Spirit.”
— Written by Vincent Van Gogh
       on the wall of the yellow house
he shared with Paul Gauguin

I would like to wear Van Gogh’s
ear for a while, listen as stars
whisper to the sickle moon
whose curved tips almost touch
in the thick swirl of indigo
flecked with white, the sky
unfurling in lines of melody.
I could hear a dark bush snake up
from an imagined ocean floor,
flames of leaves undulating,
speaking in tongues to the calling yellow light.
Eyes closed, I could pass through narrow streets
where village houses huddle beneath
the beacon of a church spire; I could rest
in groves of trees whose cool blue branches
roll and crash like breakers against the foot
of a mountain.

Hammer, anvil, stirrup synchronized,
I might press the ear into the earth
over my father’s grave, the deep timbre
of his voice resonating as he
tells me how, of all his children,
I am closest to heat lightning.
The fading monarch wings of my hinged mind
would flap, flap in sluggish ascent,
and I might sense in vibrations
of those tiny bones bottled messages
of moment, portents, the captured
breath of God.

Though he placed the ear in an envelope
and made a gift of it to prostitutes,
I would like to use it
as I learn to play piano,
see deep green or ochre, Prussian blue
and bright cadmium as I practice scales
in the sun’s shower rushing through
a nearby window. That fleshy conch
might open like an anemone
or small hand whose fingers stretch
and tremble in briny streams
to float unsettling lullabies
toward sleep.

Afterimage searing through dark,
I would wake to violent colors,
temples thundering, cochlear chamber
unwound and bright as a crocus shoot.
Tulips, irises, sunflowers sang to him —
fire beneath his skin. Paint bubbled up
from veins. I could travel through madness
and back again unseen,
rock the dead, loose unborn furies,
enter Canaan, trumpet fastened
to my head proclaiming forever
one sunrise.
Providence Hall Mailbox #29
Whose Combination Has Been Lost

It rests like a silent tabernacle wedged
in brown checkerboard
or a secret chamber of the heart,
forgotten, yet pulsing still,
thoughts guarded as those of a jealous mistress.
Such space might bloom,
ovule of Georgia O’Keefe’s flower,
its contents pots of cattails
or rusted keys and chipped cups.
Perhaps its cubbyhole once garnered owl
or sparked colonies of spiders to tat lace
or held on to the unspoken like a fist.
Inside there are no lost invitations,
another day’s news—instead, this metal trunk
acts as locket tucked between mattresses of dreams,
contains wisemen’s gifts,
true formulas sent to balance equations perfectly.
Though its exact address has been lost,
its chimney signals,
This is the house of the wind knocked out of us.