Whitman’s Child in Pitttsburgh

pinke1.jpgWhitman’s Child in Pittsburgh

Outside a Pittsburgh window
coal’s sour smokiness
rose from chimneys
to lay gray strata bands
on drifts of whitish snow.

Inside, the child’s mother
boiled cabbage and potatoes
that steamed glass windows,
dewed cold walls damp,
interfered with breath.
The child raised a window sash.
“Shut it. You’ll catch your death.”
Hesitation. She balanced negatives…
tested them for strength
and locked the window closed.

Then…she inhaled faint purple fragrance
where African violets bloomed
on the window ledge.
She pinched their fleshy leaves
with forefinger and thumb…
stroked their dark green velvet…
imagined herself flowering in Africa
deep-rooted in loam beneath a baobab…
imagined Mount Kilimanjaro
cloud-topped across vast savanna…
then…willed herself
a snow leopard in the yard.

Bonnie Marshall

11 thoughts on “Whitman’s Child in Pitttsburgh

  1. I was talking about the fragrance of African Violets and the imagination with an oblique reference to scratch and sniff movies. I guess sometimes I don’t explain myself very well, especially in the printed form. I loved your poem and especially the old world feel it expressed. The nostalgia for a more innocent and earthly life. I don’t really understand ‘Maxada Woodlands’ I just keep getting Mazda dealerships. Perhaps I’ve forgotten something.

    1. Sorry. Maxada Woodlands…an elementary boarding school where I lived for several years with fifty other children and we ran wild through woods and built tree forts and had snow battles and sled rides down steep forested hills…and I learned to read and read and read. The African violets are my mother’s favorite flower.

  2. I liked this a great deal, though I get the idea that the title is a fancy. I’m not a Whitman scholar so I may have missed allusions if they were there. /But good solid writing. >KB

    1. Ah, well, a tiny bit of Leaves of Grass “There Was a Child Went Forth” going on there. My poet mind often thinks in transcendental ways…although without the drugs. Early on…high school…I found Emerson and Thoreau. You’re right…title is a fancy.

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