Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley: Pittsburgh

This city of hills and rivers and steel,
always, the slant in the road,
the winding, falling cliffs, bridges, the escape 
route, through which I come to find myself. 
The city where, if you can cry loud 
and hard, all you’ll do
is replace river. 
 
So, when the land comes sliding down
with house, pot, and pan during the rains,
you may not need to swim. 
Your tunnels never lead me to the other place
I have lost, and in seeking to find 
that place, I spill poetry 
in small bits of broken crumbs, 
in between the burnt metal pieces
of the past of my own city. 
 
When I was a child,
I used to hear of this faraway place
where my people came to drown 
themselves in search of America. 
Pittsburgh, I do not know 
if they found America, or if like me, 
they came and went 
away still longing for home.
 
Sometimes, for me, your roadways 
lead to the Strip District for cassava roots 
and fish and gari and sweet potato greens, 
or sometimes, I find all the condiments 
we could not bring with us 
when we fled Africa.
So, I come to the Strip, where streets 
are so jammed, if you do not pinch 
yourself hard enough, 
you might forget 
you are not in an African market.
 
Pittsburgh, maybe someday 
I may discover why you do not go away 
even when I drive away to the small 
town where I have buried myself 
like a seed all these years.
Whether it is your merging rivers 
or your hills rising into other hills 
or your tunnels, or the ghosts 
of my people who once lived here,
or just the wandering in my feet
looking for home,
I do not know.
 

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Penn State University. She is a Liberian Civil War survivor who immigrated to the United States with her family in 1991, and the author of six books of poetry, including Praise Song for my Children: New and Selected Poems (Autumn House, 2020).

Copyright 2020 Patricia Jabbeh Wesley.

7 comments on “Patricia Jabbeh Wesley: Pittsburgh

  1. Terry Farish
    April 13, 2021

    Dear Patricia, I heard you read at the NH Poets’ event just past. Your poems awe me. Thank you for “Pittsburgh.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Virginia Graham
    December 9, 2020

    I like that my feelings for Pittsburgh are reflected here.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. rosemaryboehm
    December 9, 2020

    Just LOVE it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Barbara Huntington
    December 9, 2020

    What a clear picture of outside and in. I love this one, but Michael chooses so well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. loranneke
    December 9, 2020

    Lovely lyrical poem

    Like

  6. Judith Dansker
    December 9, 2020

    Beautiful!!

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on December 9, 2020 by in Opinion Leaders, Poetry and tagged , , .

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