Coming back to Cincinnati,
a wayward soul looking for a sign, I see the city
stretching out like a foresworn promise.
The thing next to cleanliness—Cincinnati—
host to Proctor & Gamble, the Smut Buster,
Skyline Chili. I now return like a blind man
inhabiting a woman’s body, an alien
within an alien, hopelessly lost, sensing Cincinnati
will always be foreign. The city will always catapult me
to a childhood endlessly spinning
out of control. Cincinnati, oh city of fountains,
squares, new buildings I will never recognize,
what is your plan? Returning to the once great
Queen City, riverboat town, gateway to the south, I find
ghosts of the underground railroad, Mapplethorpe, race
riots, boycotts. Cincinnati, where crows combed the outlying
fields in awful stillness, and dogs barked as if they alone
knew their voices echoed for miles down hollows,
where are you now? Where is the Cincinnati filled
with concrete strength, suppressed love, waiting breath,
this city of my youth with everything opening, where smells
of spring meant daffodils covered whole hillsides
with yellow? City once called Porkopolis, where hordes of pigs
pushed pedestrians off streets, once trashed
by Frances Trollope, why am I coming back to you, land
restlessly stolen, abandoned in adolescent
despair, vanished island, lost promise of light?
Margo Taft Stever’s poetry collections include Cracked Piano (CavanKerry Press, 2019); Ghost Moose (Kattywompus Press, 2019); The Lunatic Ball (Kattywompus Press, 2015); The Hudson Line (Main Street Rag, 2012); Frozen Spring (Mid-List Press First Series Award, 2002) and Reading the Night Sky (Riverstone Press Poetry Chapbook Competition, 1996). She co-authored Looking East: William Howard Taft and the 1905 U.S. Diplomatic Mission to China (Zhejiang University Press, 2012). Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, including Verse Daily; Prairie Schooner; Connecticut Review; “poem-a-day” on poets.org, Academy of American Poets; Cincinnati Review; upstreet; Plume; and Salamander. She is founder of the Hudson Valley Writers Center and founding and current co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. She lives in Sleepy Hollow, New York.
Sarah Ghoshal’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Arsenic Lobster, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Empty Mirror, Red Savina Review and Broad! Magazine, among others. Her chapbook, Changing the Grid, is available from Finishing Line Press. She earned her MFA from Long Island University and teaches at Montclair State University. Sarah lives in New Jersey with her husband, her ten month old daughter and her dog Comet, who flies through the air with the greatest of ease.