The Night Before Another Departure

after Kevin A González



     Even before leaving you     Pittsburgh

my eyes     were filled     with post-autumnal light


     the way     Pittsburgh     it falls

slanted     illuminating     another window


     another mural     the daily enactment

of reinvention     mirroring you     Pittsburgh


     how you have overtaken     your past

blast furnaces     steel mills     chimneys


     heavy boots     soot     your very own

Pittsburgh powder rooms     without abandoning


     any of it     not so much     a shed skin

as a layer     beneath newer layers     still stitched


     by threads of rivers     by steel bridges

pocketfuls of suburbs     potholes     road construction


     stitched into     the fabric     of lives

like mine     a stranger     adopted


     showing me     Pittsburgh     a new dress

a new evening gown     like the Phipps Conservatory


     ablaze in winter lights     becoming     Pittsburgh

a home     I never knew     I wanted 





Monologue to a Friend


                        A conversation begins with a lie.


                                                - Adrienne Rich




The way is not clear, the way is not sure,

the way is a stumbling, the way is a mist,

the way is a guess, the way is a risk,

the way has no signposts, the way is not clear,


the way has no maps, the way is unknown,

the way is a mystery, the way leads away,

leads on and elsewhere, leads towards and beyond,

the way absorbs you, the way is not clear.


No one can tell you the turnings to take, the ones to pass by,

no one can say where the way will lead,

no one can accompany you for more than a while,

no one can go with you where you must go.


The way has no signposts, the way is a question,

the way is not clear, it is the flame you burn in.





The rebuke always stings.

The unmerited rebuke that brooks

no answer flails the heart.

How do I answer what seeks no answer?


Here is the answer of my hands,

soft in their reminiscence though scraped

and torn, though bloodied sore.

These hands have been pawing at earth,


clawing, prizing out little offerings,

little nuggets to raise to the light,

to bring to you.  These hands

are their own offerings, open,


an invitation to speak, to listen.

These hands are outstretched.





I stand accused, your grievance

abstract and unclear.

What if I say this: everything

is an attempt at honesty,


a scratching scrabbling

at the masks to discern the face,

a painstaking exhumation

of motive, of meaning,


to find, amongst it all,

the brittle bones of truth?

What sad foolishness

to keep speaking, explicating,


unearthing, when you cannot bear

to hear, do not wish to listen.





It was an old theme even for me:

Language cannot do everything —

but what else can I bring to you?

I try and fail and try again


with the rich poverty of language:

this is all I know.

I have no wish for weapons

or the tyranny of silence.


If my voice is to be drowned,

it will be drowned speaking still,

whether you have turned away or not,

whether the words falter and flail


against the walls of their cage.

If need be, I will speak long into

your silence, the anger you scald me with.

If you no longer hear me,


hear an echo, a ghost, a whisper,

hear a shadow, hear a memory.




Note: the two italicised lines and the epigraph are from ‘Cartographies of Silence’ by Adrienne Rich, originally published in ‘The Dream of a Common Language’ and republished in ‘Later Poems – Selected and New 1971-2012 W.W. Norton & Company 2013’.  The form of part 1 of the poem emulates the form of Adrienne Rich’s poem ‘Final Notations’, originally published in ‘An Atlas of the Difficult World’ and republished in ‘Later Poems – Selected and New 1971-2012 W.W. Norton & Company 2013’.