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AT THE PITTSBURGH REGIONAL HISTORY CENTER, REMEMBERING A PHOTOGRAPH OF MY FATHER/Robert Gibb The dust raised up! Brick and girders Salvaged from the slow fires of the rust, The black, particulate Pittsburgh air That fell upon us like history's own patina And surface glare. Here all's restored: The U.S. Steel mándala, Klein's neon lobster And scalloped sea—the sign beneath which My parents dined in their brief spring after the war Until her death left him shell-shocked. I climb into the softly glowing streetcar, Mint and empty, they could have ridden. The house in Homestead they returned to, Past twisty rivers and smoke-plumed flues, Looked just like this re-creation With its weathered trim and kitchen, The mills' red suffusion flooding The shadowbox rooms. Alleys I watched, In turn, fill with sparrows and children flocking Home from school. Where my father Stands below the parlor window, archival In his baseball suit: high-tops and stirrups, The glove dangling to his knee The Missouri Review · 53 An enormous, swollen paw. In the wavy Panes above him, the oil-rubbed fronds And birdcage swirl within the rooftree Reflected from next door. A framed world Flattened like history. CO AL, his shirt reads, Which the stove in the kitchen burns, And the winter furnace, as though time Were sifting its cold iron grates for this boy Dressed so lovingly for play, the snows He'll find each year pitted with ashes. Looking out the window here, toward The narrow courtyard and porch next door, I find worn clouds of laundry strung in A line, their bodies more abiding than our own. 54 · The Missouri Review Robert Gibb THE BOOK OF THE DEAD/Robert Gibb The Nestling Already the ants are working their intricacies Upon it, world without end. They unburden the bones that were only The barest of reeds to begin with, They rinse themselves in the light And hurry on. There is no mystery for them In the unfinished body with its gummed wings And few feathers and dangling little feet. The bird is simply another thermal of the source They spend themselves uncovering. And I, who am loath to hold it in my hands, What right have I to quarrel With any of heaven's precise, cold terms? Or any of the earth's? Waking at Night All night I tossed fitfully as one whose sleep Was a passage to the same bad dream That set my flesh crawling, the smallest motes Of moonlight falling through the screen, And then beyond it, to where my father lay As evening filled his room, the faint ants spilled In countless waves out across the ceiling. The Missouri Review · 55 Figments of his shadows, he watched them Swarm from the corners, the ribs of light In the blinds, pour upside-down about him, Or cover his sheets like wrinkles he kept trying To smooth. Nor could anything but sleep Soothe him, no matter what measures we used To chase the small hordes from his sight. Now, tossing awake at night, I watch stars Glint mutely above me, like the motes which Keep sintering into my sleep. I kick loose The covers, trying to see if I am being bitten In bed for real or have again been dreaming Of another whose room grew dark those transits When the night rushed in in bits. in. Walton Hall ofAncient Egypt Feted and caulked, wound with strips Of swaddling, the blunt Egyptian body Lies in its stiff shreds as in mâché As though death might be managed The way life was not, and this vessel Floating on the waters of the dead— A trenched bed drifting into your sight. And in the dim room walled beyond it, The inlaid lid of that coffin blooming With spectral flowers, the hawk-faced god Fired in clay, and the chiseled ankh, And the dry, meticulous veins . . . Everything but the gold the great ants Roll from the underworld, the scarab Beetle that pushes up the disc of the sun. 56 · The Missouri Review Robert Gibb SIFTING THROUGH THE REMAINS/ Robert Gibb I I set them on the table before me: ring, bracelet...


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