The Fourth River

Essay: “Senses of Pittsburgh”

By on March 31, 2017

This is a collaboratively written essay by Pittsburgh fifth-graders in response to “Senses of South Arm,” by 5th graders in Tasmania, Australia


By Grade 5-1, Pittsburgh Colfax Elementary


In the morning the sun stretches its arms to me. It is winter light outside and everything is covered in snow. Snow white as sugar. A whiff of cold air bites my showing skin. My feet contact the creaky floorboards, just waking up from the night before. I move through my home, running my fingers a long the railing of the stairs, I feel the memories of this 25 years aged house. I get a fresh splinter cut and bleed. The crimson liquid soaks into my home, marking my place for many years. The sound of hissing drifts up the stairs as cottage cheese pancakes are made. They taste sweet and billowy, no maple syrup necessary.

Outside, the old pine trees are slowly climbing toward the bright sky. Suddenly we are rushing down the hill of new snow as crisp as freshly washed clothes. We are going so fast that the world seems a blur until I slow to a stop and fall down with uncontrollable laughter. The cold air stings my ears.

I dream of spring. When it rains, the whole block can hear my brothers splash down the driveway, racing to sail toy boats in the dull, murky waters of “the little Allegheny.” The mere streams of water gush over leaves and rocks flowing in unison. The air is damp. Its presence enfolds me in a blanket. Splish, splash, splish, and splash rain is coming and the baseball game is delayed. In the distance, I hear birds chirping, turning the air into a delightful melody.

But summer. The warm sugar coats the gritty, gray polluted streets and air, giving a reason to remain in the city. Contrasting the blue crayon that surrounds the world is the sun, shining high at noon like the pupil of my eye. Walking through town, I see the famous old building. It towers over me with sweet kindness. Trees blow against the windows like bristles on a painting. The sun reflects light off cars leaking gas in the parking lot. The gas drips like blood from a paper cut.

In the day I experience blowing grass and broken trees, but in the night I experience cops and sirens. When you go to bed you hear cars honking, buses splashing, people fighting. But then the world is silent, still. Still as the stony surface on the rock in the sky that shines at the time before dusk. The same time as the sun takes its final breath. Rare stars peek through the polluted sky, giving hope and light to a gritty city. The day will come back again, back to the sugary sun and dirty street.