A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
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.