The Fourth River

Tributaries: “Geography of a Steel City”

By on December 14, 2016

By Allison Brooks


Here I am the proverbial stranger:
My foolish mouth, my pig-shit mind,
drops verbs of being sweeps them up
from this slippy floor. I was forged stupid,
then, by lunch pails and Catechism.

Mid-west, where thunderstorms split sky
like cartoon Gods, horizontal lightning
unbroken across Chippewa country.
At home they’re stymied by the coal
smeared knuckles of the Alleghenies.

Here the floors of churches are cold,
The holy family wear strange broad faces,
Carved from wood and not the red haired
blue-eyed virgins that resemble my own people.
I must pray for the Intentions of men
who do not die in mills and mines,
but make their living in softer ways.

They say “A”s and “O”s so it hurts
my ears. There is one Irish bar in town
and no fish frys on Good Friday.
I start to believe the world could be flat.

But at night I fly back, over hardwood
forests, brick colored rivers tinted
by clay, smell the furnace of Two Shop
over in Wilkinsburg works, the valley’s
palm crossed with rivers-as-lifelines.

It is in this hand I read my fortune.



Allison Brooks is a Pittsburgher living in diaspora in North East Ohio in the pursuit of a Doctorate in Language and Literature at Kent State University. She holds and MFA from the University of Michigan and agonizes over third person expository writing and the entire genre of cover letter writing.