Winter 2017-18|volume 11|Issue 2

    Pittsburgh Poetry

    Collected on Penn

    We were a legal 33 together, but only a pure 11 each,

    Facing decade by decade, promise before experience,

    the way Whitfield lay before Negley, before Aiken,

    as we looked up to the top of Penn Avenue,

    bright cafés like landing lights; from the days

    when the church was called East Liberty Presbyterian

    by enough grey-jacketed Protestants,

    but dubbed Mellon’s Fire Escape by the Catholic

    school boys whose fathers had built it.

     

    Eddy had cat his collar up and now

    rolled his shoulders to brush and soothe

    the back of his neck with it, rebalancing

    on the tiny stone edging the church lawn.

     

    We were early for the evening movie

    at the Regent, before Kelly and Strayhorn were appreciated,

    and no one wanted us stone-smelling kids, the way no one

    would want East Liberty thirty years later.

     

    Bullnecked, smiling Sal was most open about the wine,

    right on the Avenue, pulling it out of his coat like a sword,

    choking its neck

    put it back; put it back, two new arrivals said.

    We weren’t ready.

     

    Past Woolworth’s, Murphy’s, across

    to the Cameraphone, down to Bolans;

    and so we walked.

    Our after-school job: to make sure

    we inherited the street the way it was.

     

    We massed at the cashier’s booth

    like a good small army

    as much for bravado as confusion:

    two tactically bought tickets

    and all five of us were in

     

    Every weekend, we would sneak in

    and be afraid to open the wine,

    and open it, and drink, never daring to answer

    the question that nosey cashier asks: Why aren’t you at home?

     

    We’re ready now. This is our home.

    Jay Carson holds a Doctor of Arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University and taught at Robert Morris University for many years where he was a faculty advisor to the student literary journal,Rune.  Now a full-time writer, Jay is the author of a chapbook, Irish Coffee (Coal Hill Review), and a longer book of poetry, The Cinnamon of Desire (Main Street Rag). He has published more than 80 poems in local and national journals, magazines, and collections, including in The Alembic, Bayou, The Connecticut Review, Eclipse, Euphony, Folio, The Fourth River, G.W. Review, Edison Literary Review, The Louisville Review, The Oakland Review, Southern Indiana Review, The West Wind Review, Willard & Maple, and Willow Review.