Wrote this about Pittsburgh years ago, about a friend who is now gone


We found the time machine
Just over the farthest bridge
Beyond it the hills bent their way
Toward Ohio, and, somewhere,
The ocean.

It was metal rusted over,
With a pushbutton top.
You knew how to get in,
Had been in it before,
Folded yourself into the chamber
Waved your hand to me.
Just enough room for both of us.

And when we turned it on,
With whispers and levers,
It wasn’t a whir, or a flash of light.
Just a paper bag uncrinkling
A few of our laughs in reverse.

When it was done, when we were ready,
We stepped out, limb by limb.
Spiders out of the shower drain.
And the whole world
Was young again.
There were the first flecks of beards.
The giddy porch knees.
The thump of music
Humming in golden rooms,
deep inside houses.

We threw our heads back
And spoke our language.
We put on plays,
Were swept up into snowy nights.
We felt drunk and dumb again,
Our shoes newly resoled,
Our insides less tape and glue.

“We’re plums, or bumblebees,”
we thought.
“We’re airplanes.
Calm, blooming hearts.”
We found every old corner
Only they were full of people now.
The long lost Sarahs,
The forgotten Jons.
We could see each and every hand
That built the applause
When we bowed
And everyone thanked us
For bringing them back.

When I woke up,
Winter dripping away outside,
You’d gone off again
Down the bare-limbed street.
My clothes were in piles,
Messy ziggurats,
On a small patch of your new floor.

I rose up and away,
The cheering, dirty city
Standing softly.
The rivers stumbling and rolling
Into each other.
The bridges crisscrossing them forever.
Like the cargo boats I saw while landing.

I imagined they’d come
From exotic ports, faraway.
Tangiers, or Sydney.
But none quite so knowing,
The way places are,
As Pittsburgh.
Noises and light disappearing
Over its steep hills.
Gray like gray has ever been.
Green like green will ever be,
In our little giftbox future.

Your hands still moving through its air.
Making a point,
Celebrating some grand or silly idea
That had suddenly struck you,
Had just risen up between us,
While walking.