In the days when Pittsburgh was covered 

by clouds of smog, cold-faced walkers 

navigated city blocks only by 

the neon lights of storefronts. 


A time when the city was known

only by shoe to sidewalk,

for the upper floors of buildings 

were lost to the heavens. 

Like ants crossing a large field, 

the only way home, to recount 

each and every step. 

I wonder what it was like 

when the smog finally cleared? 

I think about families who lived 

in cramped row homes, tacted to 

steep-sloped hillsides, like patches of glitter 

barely hanging on to a 3rd grader’s school collage. 

I imagine that first spring morning 

and the mother climbing up to the 3rd floor 

to clean the modest back windows. 

A common task that would leave her white cloth 

black with soot, from distant smokestacks

settling over months of invisible rain. 

Yet, on this day, as she finishes, 

she would for the first time gaze out 

to see the entire city, presenting itself

like the blooming of white trilliums.

Steel and glass skyscrapers glistening gold 

from sunlight streams, standing tall and silent, 

garnering reverence simply by their size and stillness. 

And the blue river waters exhaling 

a long-held sigh.

Christian Umbach

Christian Umbach is an urban planner/designer by trade residing in his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. Christian has always enjoyed writing both personally and professionally. His passion culminated in completing a Creative Writing minor at Allegheny College, in Meadville, PA. Christian’s poems are highly influenced by sense of place. As a diligent observer of all things both remarkable and mundane, Christian enjoys discovering the poetic images hidden within old plat maps, building facades, and astronomy textbooks.

NOVUS Literary and Arts Journal
Lebanon, TN