On Troy Hill above Pittsburgh (and other poems)

On Troy Hill above Pittsburgh

Outside the chapel of Saint Anthony, 
in the descent of an April afternoon, 

the crossed branches—last summer’s skeleton—
scrape for entry, for permission, at the stained windows. 

The door is heavy, and I move inside,
stopping short with heavy breath to adapt 

to silence, to the rich and worried velvet 
of the nave. The wind so vocal

the shimmy of light from altar votives 
seems to dance at its command. 

I count three steps 
between each Station of the Cross, 

where above me the pained faces 
of the painted traitors hoist the Jew 

mutely into the air. On the south wall, 
in a tiny reliquary, rests a fiber of Mary’s veil, 

and underneath, the skull 
of another saint (maybe Matthias), wreathed 

by bone chips from 12 apostles. A tooth 
from St Anthony himself, and 22 splinters shaved 

from the wooden crucifix. Such gravity. 
Such affection. Such adoration 

metered out to pieces 
of the whole. What wouldn’t I sacrifice 

to certify my loss as this authentic? 
Darkly, the way I chose again and again 

to fall in love with the parts of this earth, 
not without friends and dinners and light laughter, 

and not without the red-hot charging ahead 
into the smoky allure of desire, but nevertheless 

always with the helpless sense 
that all could be lost. 

I envy their certainty—
that on the same day the righteous die, 

we must insist that fragments are saved. 
As if I could have taken a chisel 

to the edge of my son’s iliac bone 
and closed a fraction of him—a relic—

within the door of a small glass amulet. 
As if culling parts, like the priest 

who scurried these slivers across the Atlantic, 
could signal this is eternity,

moreso than a pleading symmetry 
of grandiose arches, and moreso 

than the ascendancy of gold flutes 
toward the sky. As if 

I could wander into the museum shop 
next door, open ten to three most Sundays, 

and ask the lady to show me how 
to claim his lock of hair 

and leftover marrow 

The Poet Starts a Rough Draft of Her Obituary

A marvelous orchestration it was, or colossal failure. 
All those days, the waiting for the right words 
or the right mirror, or at least 
the right waiting room. All those days

in glittering conversation with the wrong gods. 
How to know then how much was ending, 
when for so long I came in hot 
and unrehearsed and the walls of this house 

gathered round like curious medical students. 
When my nervous system could barely rouse 
without hearing the voices 
of the children sing, or the breathy gossip of curtains, 

swinging in the window wells. How did my newborn 
poems always suspect when I’d gone 
and fallen in love (here she goes again),
and my sheepish fantasies that followed;

why hadn’t I shouted in their tender ears
to grow up, come to terms with what 
was wrestled? Every weekend, 
I sensed disappointment 

when they had nothing to do and nowhere 
to go, sitting on my bed in little black dresses, 
clutching their evening bags.
It’s the same way I’d used the mulberry silks 

of Vogue magazine as wallpaper, 
and called it adolescence; the same way 
I stayed plastered 
to the front page of the New York Times,

and thought myself worldly. A marvelous 
orchestration it was! How I could gloss things up 
here or slow them down there, and how 
the repetition of words could be 

a salve, a weird expensive ointment, and how 
the repetition of words could be-
come nothing but lines at the corners 
of my eyes. How gentle now, this softening. 

This lure and ruin, this desk and home 
where I love deeply all the animals 
that trail behind me, the ones that breathe 
and jerk in their dreams at my feet. 

Where the cracked clock ticks 
in a tattered blanket to help the puppy sleep, 
and where these days I never find time 
to get a shot off, but still… don’t you ever feel 

illuminated from within, like a Christmas village 
in fake snow? Soon enough, I’ll hold 
the clenched-up remains in my hand, 
(unpolished, unpublished) and have to let go. 

Whatever is lost in the large and ardent translation 
of a life cannot be durable, yet I am buried 
by the near-syncopal thought that I once 
imagined a life should be so… 

linear? I know, I might’ve built it differently, 
the house and the radius of lines that led 
to the house. But here I sit
 in blue-ticked and stained overalls, 

and how dare I forsake the mess 
of my dogged architecture; feral, a child 
who nestles her madness—her creations—
into well-behaved rows. 


  • Beth Weinstock is a poet and physician living in Columbus Ohio. In 2019, she completed an MFA in Poetry at Bennington Writing Seminars, and now teaches poetry workshops to medical students, veterans, and incarcerated individuals. Her poems have been published recently in Greensboro Review, The MacGuffin, Global Poemic, Harpur Palate, Headline Poetry and Press, South Florida Poetry Journal, and High Shelf Press.

  • Photographing the harbor and hills of Camden, Maine at the turn of the twentieth century, Theresa Babb (1868–1948) recorded both the intimacies of social life and her hometown’s industrial and seafaring traditions. What stands out most about Babb’s images is how they let us glimpse into a personal world of female friendship, captured in such a way that seems both timeless and strikingly modern. From Public Domain Review.