For Lucie in Dr. Scholl’s Sandals

Maybe Lucie never went back home
much because there was less
Pittsburgh left, let it go
all at once rather than suffer
the many pieces
not in her books
of going, three movie theaters
gone, the one big screen
in the last one divvied
into five Green Stamps, the lawn
of the high school she hated
blown out, the Doric columns
obscured by the crown
of the new gym,
the old delicatessens
replaced by new ones,
the used books
and used records
and new books
and new records
vanished, the pieces
to the Torah Chutes and Ladders
vanished, the ice skating
rink of St. Edmund’s Academy
gone, the J.C.C.
remodeled, with a clock tower,
Big Benjamin, Big Ben Yehuda
then obscured by the building
that went up where one
of three corner gas stations
became medical offices
and retail spaces,
the street cars
that rattled by her childhood,
in the sixties stopped,
and finally the worn penny-smooth
trolley tracks ripped out
and replaced by less bumpy
roadbed for busses
that pirated street car numbers
and vague hopes
of a bus-way connector
changes to the inner eye,
changes to the inner nose.
I could have looked up
and thought, Hey weird
pretty teenager,
go where I go
with great big hair
buying cigarettes
while I buy Milk Duds,
I am but five, but in love
with ladies my sister’s age
because I look up to them
swinging on knee-length
braids down practically
to red Dr. Scholl’s sandals,

but never did, as far
as I know, but possibly so,
from the pharmacy lady
harrumphing in her octagonal
pink glasses and red, white
and blue striped
pharmacy cashier coats
calmly advancing
through Gerald Ford,
and the old blind guy
sold unsharpened pencils
from a cup from the bank steps,
and a constellation
of nickels and dimes
across the afternoon paper
with the third inning scores
at the newsstand managed
by a clean-cut man
with a turtleneck, a corduroy
blazer and a tall afro,
and small change
into the fireman’s boot
spangled with small red helmets.
St. Lucy, St. Francis, St. Christopher,
St. John the Evangelist, St. Gertrude,
St. Earth, the weird
painted postcard look
settles in with mist
and green light
in the forest primeval
of the Appalachian
public park named
for one major skinflint
or rich crook or another,
so I will keep things
light and misty as possible
rather than squatting
in the sulfur of the river
deeper than I can think
with night barges bending
foreshortening spotlights
gone walking in dank fog.
I maybe get saved awhile
in the noosphere
with other people
and a run of good luck
that won’t matter at all
and the paper towels
and the flies
and the cheese
and the grapes
in the home kitchen
to keep things going
in the great indoor art
of knowing strangers.


Click here to read David Blair on the origin of the poem.

Image: provided by the author.

David Blair:

One time, Lucie Brock-Broido and I talked about the public high school we both attended (Taylor Allderdice) eighteen years apart, and about not reading in Pittsburgh because nobody ever asked her to read there. A bunch of poets and writers went to that school over the years—Gerald Stern, Lewis Hyde, others. Take that, suburban prep schools. I had always heard a kind of folkloric version of the 1970 Allderdice graduation, a gigantic baby boomer ceremony that had to be held at the ice hockey area, those boomers so numerous they had to attend school in shifts, crazy—and that the entire graduating class of Black kids and white kids gave a Black Power salute during the Pledge of Allegiance and had a black fist sewn onto the backs of their gowns—but she had missed graduation. A lot of the poem comes from my earliest memories of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood that I assume anybody who grew up around there would recognize, the newsstand, the trolleys that left their tracks for a long time, the blind guy selling pencils by the columns of the bank, the painted names of old delis fading on bricks.

David Blair
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  1. This is a remarkable tracing of the awakening of memory and its gathering momentum, all predicated on a possibility, all rooted in wonder. Bravo! I love this poem. Thanks for it.


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