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              VERTICAL BRIDGES               














Poems and Photographs of City Steps by Paola Corso 

(Six Gallery Press, 2020)



My Pittsburgh childhood: the hills where we lived,

the river valley where my Southern Italian immigrant

family worked in a steel mill, glass plant, and mirror works

along the Allegheny.


The river where my friends and I jumped in

by swinging on a rope that hung from a tree

along the bank. 


Where my dad and his siblings were thrown in

to learn how to swim or sink.


River that floods.


Where my great uncle as a boy went fishing

on high waters one Easter and drowned

trying to save his friend's life.  


River polluted.


Bridges to cross.


Then came a day I looked up to the hills and saw    

what’s between:  steps.


Pittsburgh is a triangle, a confluence of rivers,

but my geometric view of the city began to take

a different shape. 


The perpendicular—where horizontal meets vertical.

City steps and steps in the city. People climbing them.

Sitting on them. Shoveling and painting them.


Steps to admire for their architectural beauty.


Steps my grandfather, a stone mason from Sicily, built.

Steps my Calabrian father climbed to and from the steel mill.                                                                          The more I saw, the more I realized what I had overlooked   

since childhood, what had come to draw my attention and why. 


Steps are vertical bridges, and I want to cross them.


As connections in the landscape.


Connections we make with each other.


That middle ground where we meet.




in memory of Xu Chaoqing and Liu Guojiang                                                                                             


Jiangjin, Chongqing, China


Ask yourself                                                                                                                                                         what you would do for love.

For over 50 years                                                                                                                                                       a man chiseled 6000 steps

out of rock                                                                                                                                                             from the village Gaotan

to the mountaintop                                                                                                                                          where he and a shunned woman

ten years older                                                                                                                                                      fled to live in seclusion.

Grass and roots for food,                                                                                                                               walnuts and dates,

fish caught, leaves                                                                                     

ground into flour.

A kerosene lamp for light,                                                                                     

two wooden stools,                                                               

and their embrace                                                                                                          

to warm the chill of night.

It was rare for her to climb                                                                                                        

down and face village gossip.

Some say the times she did                                                                                       

were for her husband,                                                                                                

so the soles of her feet                                                                                                            

would touch                                                                                                                                         

every slab he carved                                                                                                      

with loving hands.


Read an Interview.

Listen to a song inspired by my poem, Love's Ladder called Ask Yourself (What You Would Do for Love) lyrics and music by Lou Davelman.

Book Reviews and Interviews

Pennsylvania School Librarian's Assn Book Review

Pittsburgh City Paper Interview 

Ovunque Siamo Book Review

Pittsburgh Post Gazette Book Review

Pittsburgh Magazine Book Review

Listen to Paola's poetry reading at White Whale Bookstore and  Battle of Homestead Foundation


Order from Karen's Book Row at Bookshop or Amazon. 

To purchase a signed copy of the book, email Paola Corso.

Copyright © 2020 Paola Corso. All Rights Reserved.

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