Saturday Poem / Going Back

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Blades slap back and forth, rhythmic, decisive
but what I feel cannot be wiped clean.

Driving alone through wet snow
on a highway back to Pittsburgh

where from the sod lawns of the South Hills
through the Liberty Tunnels

there is one millisecond when descending dark
gives way to ascending dark.

You can see the circle of light ahead.
Then, suddenly, a view of sun and steel

where three rivers meet and barges
once loaded with coal float towards obscurity.

This snow goes back to 1964 when it
came down through the steel mill's smoke

into the Ohio River, while I lay tiny in her arms
in Room 314 of Magee-Womens Hospital,

and she, exhausted, touched a finger to my cheek,
a mother's promise

she did not know she wouldn't have
the chance to keep. The sky glowed

orange at the horizon over the river
as the mills blazed on toward their finale

when they would empty into dark caves
with silences larger than the city itself.


Alison Prine grew up in Mt. Lebanon and now lives in Burlington, Vt., where she works as a psychotherapist. Her poems have recently appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Harvard Review, Chatham University's Fourth River and The Chautauqua Literary Journal, among others.


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