Tag: Christian Umbach


On Sunday afternoons in August, 

the streets and sidewalks 

of Fairview are empty and drowsy. 

The gentle buzz of weed wackers, 

dispersed every few blocks, 

cloaks the neighborhood 

with a musing white noise. 

Each yard tool operated by working men 

dressed in cut-off tees and gym shorts. 

In no apparent rush, they move with care 

along flower beds and chain-linked fences. 

Their shoulders slouched 

from the weight of the machine, 

their faces mute and expressionless, 

neither frustrated nor content, the mind given space to wander. 

It is the same face that stares

back through the mirror 

each Tuesday morning, while trimming 

stubble hidden beneath cheekbones. 

Back and forth, the massage of metal against skin, 

and the hum of the razor droning on and on, 

drowning out fears, longings, hopes: anything 

that tries to crop up. 


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.

NOVUS Literary and Arts Journal
Lebanon, TN