Since 1996 Volume XXI

Eric Bliman

Eric Bliman's chapbook, Travel & Leisure, won the Poetry Society of America's National Chapbook Fellowship in 2012. His poems and reviews have appeared in Birmingham Poetry Review, HEArt Journal Online, Quarterly West, The Southern Review, Subtropics, The Times Literary Supplement, and other journals. He holds a PhD in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Cincinnati, where he volunteered at the Cincinnati Review, and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Florida. He teaches composition, technical writing, and creative writing at Pennsylvania State University - Harrisburg. He is currently seeking a publisher for his first full-length collection of poems.

Prometheus in Pittsburgh

1. Dance of the Flaming Coke

Atop the furnace dotted with blazing lids,
a lean man crooks an arm to shield his face
from the burning wind, weighed down by robes of lead.

Flares dance and sing up through the coke-holes:
dialed-up, dialed-in jets of light and heat 
belch and cavort. No one can control
the beast beneath, whose exhalations shoot 
through the vents in each charnel cover, 
as coal-dust purrs softly down the chute. 

In his left hand, a pike—half-shovel, half-lance—
mounted with a shoulder buckler, fends off 
arrows of heat and incandescence.

In Pompeii’s hot mud, hollow pietas were trapped.
Poured plaster revealed their human forms. 
Here, a coal car’s wheels polish the track. 

2. Workers, Steel Mill

Holy men wear one-piece dresses of asbestos, 
floppy hats, great moon-boots, and goggles 
that recall mustard-gas-filled trenches.

Whistling like miners’ short-lived canaries,
they totter among sparks and firefalls that cool 
into razorblades, shoveling shards, Antares-
ribbons. Their morality plays contain scenes
of endless suffering and abrupt demise.
Pots of molten metal pour out their dreams. 

My father remembers driving past the slag-hills 
at night, their peaks streaked with orange streams.
Mills crouched by the river like extinct animals.

Each furnace held a ruby element, that pyre 
stolen from the stars to give us life: such a crime 
the jealous gods could not forbear.

--Previously appeared in Quarterly West
Note: after photographs in Smith’s posthumously-published, 
epic photo-essay of Pittsburgh, Dream Street.


for Weldon Kees

Half a California lifetime has passed
since he last daydreamed of getting lost,

parked his Plymouth Savoy by the north end
of the Golden Gate bridge, and abandoned

his life, the records show, for the embrace of ocean.
No body, no clue. Just the keys in the ignition.

Would his friends, old warriors, recognize him
in the beard and posture of decades on the lam?

Some say he picked up Ambrose Bierce’s trail,
said “Hell with this,” and walked to Mexico—

I’d like to think so—glancing back from time
to time, not like Orpheus, who knew he’d failed

the moment he looked back, but just to thumb 
a ride, with someplace new and calm to go.

--appears in the book by the author, Travel and Leisure.

Alan Soldofsky       Kathleen McClung    Eric Bliman       John Guzlowski     

Mary Barnet


Grace Cavalieri

Joan Gelfand

Janet Brennan