Now a poet in my 50th year,
I have settled on the mountain –
and I ponder the gentle streets,
the silent-blue church spires
and the listless Conemaugh.
Here, among the Alleghenies,
in a chair near the jukebox,
I spent a year sipping lager,
a parishioner to the vibrations
of a Johnstown congregation.
Each night someone is there
feeding the hopeful jukebox,
Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen,
as the thinning light births stars
over the wild onion side
of the mountain, reflecting
the rail-lights of the Inclined Plane –
and every evening someone new comes in,
and they are regaled with stories
about relentless rains and the flood,
and the way people were grasped
by the hands of the raging river,
flung sideways like flat rocks
skipping over water and water.
The words ring gently poetic
across the bar, with a voice
so familiar it feels like your own,
and it penetrates your very heart
as naturally as lightning seeks the ground,
and the artfulness fills me with hope
that someday I will write this well,
pierce as deeply as the poets at the bar.