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.
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
every slab he carved
with loving hands.
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Copyright © 2020 Paola Corso. All Rights Reserved.