In the days when Pittsburgh was covered
by clouds of smog, cold-faced walkers
navigated city blocks only by
the neon lights of storefronts.
MAX’S, JAMES ST, WHOLLY’S.
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.