Of Beer and Birthplace

Pretty close together a few years ago, I had the dual pleasures of seeing Sacchi’s “Allegory of Divine Wisdom” in Rome and catching up with an old friend and In Pittsburgh Newsweekly colleague for a raucous night on the South Side of my hometown. Reconnecting with her once again recently, I recalled the poem “Allegheny of Divine Wisdom,” which was inspired by those two events and included in my 2009 book Fotographs of Bones but oddly still seems unfinished. What is “finished”?

“An Allegheny of Divine Wisdom”
by Adam Perry, Winter 2008

There must be somewhere in America I can call home,
because lately my grandfather sends love
from the bottom of the Ohio River
and traces invisible steps up and down South Side slopes
where ghosts dream of endless bridges over dirty water
and forget entire seasons
like generations isolated in a steel town
they can’t leave.

He still lives there underwater,
with my conscience and my original heart;
he scratches cracking green paint from his forehead
when I try to write;
he knows I lay naked with a young woman one night
on the banks of the Monongahela, kissing
and pissing gold into the summer water,
drinking the city back in like iron
that used to grow there by the river
and harden in the center of my raw stomach
as if the shape of the city would tell my insides
the flavor and intent of an unwashed mind.

You could play the harmonica on Carson Street
until my eyes and ears were gone;
you could sail from the birth of my city to the
depths of New Orleans, unable to focus or forget
failures and faults at the fork of three rivers
and I’d still make it mine.

3 thoughts on “Of Beer and Birthplace

  1. Adam, this is a good poem, and the first twelve lines are stunning, but then the reverie looses me. So you may be right about it not being finished. This next said in a Borscht-belt accent: What’s finished? Finished is finished.

    First love poem to Pittsburgh I’ve ever read, maybe I should try one to Erie.

    1. Hey, Michael Chabon’s “Wonderboys” and “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” were pretty decent love poems to Pittsburgh. :-0) And yes, the end feels so clunky and sentimental to me…I have so much to say and don’t want to “tie a pink ribbon on the end of the poem,” as my one-time instructor Steven Taylor says. Perhaps I’ll be content to change the ending repeatedly for the rest of my life. Hey, when are you coming to Santa Fe to meet Sidney? Tom just returned from Africa.

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