Tuesday May 21

EllenMcGrathSmith Ellen McGrath Smith teaches at the University of Pittsburgh and in the Carlow University Madwomen in the Attic program. Her writing has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Los Angeles Review, Quiddity, Cimarron, and other journals, and in several anthologies, including Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. Smith has been the recipient of an Orlando Prize, an Academy of American Poets award, a Rainmaker Award from Zone 3 magazine, and a 2007 Individual Artist grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Her second chapbook, Scatter, Feed, was published by Seven Kitchens Press in the fall of 2014, and her book, Nobody's Jackknife, was published in 2015 by the West End Press.

Pilgrims on Farragut

One time, sitting on my porch on Farragut,
I saw a man with a muzzled dog walk by
propelled by the dog and lost in thought.

His turned-up nose made his whole head
rise in a haughty self-righteousness.
He looked like a pilgrim to me, one

of those Salemites who called each other
"Goodman" and "Goodwife." I squinted
until he wore a doublet and cuff, felt hat

so much like a witch's (Are we
most evil when we project it
on somebody else?). The glass-

grinding heels of his shoes, each shoe buckle
a tiny TV screen, the ruff
that collected his skin cells and crumbs—

he walked on. Our block was not a busy block.
Still, when a taller, thicker man of middle age
walked by, I gave him the same treatment.

Though beardless, he bore himself
like someone who could kill his son
if called to, wearing the stockings of his grief

until they gave out one twilit winter day.
I could do this all day, I realized,
getting up to go inside. In the reflection

of myself I saw in the door, my bonnet
brooded over my slack thoughts
as if they were being cured for a great feast.


When they removed the mountaintop
so they could they could drain the mountain’s veins,
what could the headless mountain know,

except for absence?
It took no orders nor led up to what was now
loose fill, hacked-up stone.
The bluff below cinched tighter to
the gradual sense of completion;
the pines bristled anxiously.

All beings migrated from where it had been,
risking life, limb, their young.
The foothills bore the weight of machines of removal and glean,
where they once translated the murmurs of leaves.
The valleys seemed deeper,
as if making room for the loss in the air;
this was just the effect of the sun going down.

If you see the mountain, say its name,
see its previous shape, try to wake it,
try to listen for the waterfall pulse.