Poetry Moment: 'Bright Pittsburgh Morning' by Mauricio Kilwein Guevara
Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Todd Davis is a professor of English and Environmental Studies at Penn State Altoona.
This episode’s poem is “Bright Pittsburgh Morning” by Mauricio Kilwein Guevara.
Mauricio Kilwein Guevara was born in Boyacá, Colombia, and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee and has published three collections of poetry. He is the author of a book of micro-fictions and prose poems, Autobiography of So-and -So, and his magical realist comedy, The Last Bridge/El último puente, received a fully staged reading Off-Broadway. He writes that “Bright Pittsburgh Morning” was inspired by the episode featuring the cyclops Polyphemus in Homer’s The Odyssey, as well as his paternal grandparents’ house, which sat next to the Jones and Laughlin Coke Plant in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
Poetry allows us to imagine and experience the unimaginable, the magically real, even the surreal. Poetry also contains multitudes, culturally speaking. Guevara was born in Colombia, travelled to the United States to be raised in Pittsburgh, and studied English, exploring some of the oldest artistic works from the western world, like The Odyssey. Out of this mélange is born a new kind of poem that celebrates and extends these influences.
When the speaker in Guevara’s poem announces in the opening line that “This happens just after I die,” we know we’re in a place where the dead speak beyond the grave. And when that speaker reveals he has become enormous, a giant with the ability to bend over his grandparents’ house, pulling it from the soft cindered earth, we understand we ought to accept these revelations, that their magic may speak to an elemental truth about memory, how we can enter the past to celebrate or interrogate it in the present.
Bright Pittsburgh Morning
This happens just after I die: At sunrise
I bend over my grandparents’ empty house in Hazelwood
and pull it out of the soft cindered earth by the Mon River.
Copper tubing and electric lines hang down like hairs.
The house is the size of a large matchbox. I sprinkle bits
of broken pallets, seeded grass, fingernails, and tamarack
needles in the open door of the porch. I scratch a Blue Tip
and blow vowels of fire through the living room,
the tunneled hallway. Flames run up the wooden stairs.
I put my ear beside the hot kitchen window
to hear the crackling voices of cupboards and walls.
I flip the welder’s mask:
Sun off the rectangular glass, a rose glint before the white torch.
That was “Bright Pittsburgh Morning” by Mauricio Kilwein Guevara.
Hear more episodes of Poetry Moment at WPSU.org/poetrymoment.
Music by Eric Ian Farmer.
“Bright Pittsburgh Morning” from POEMA © 2009 by Maurice Kilwein Guevara, originally published by the University of Arizona Press, is reprinted by permission of Mauricio Kilwein Guevara.”