Squirrel Hill

“It is difficult
   to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
   for lack
     of what is found there.”
            — W. C. Williams
Eyes of the author.

Joseph Karasek

PHOTO: Joseph Karasek

Joseph Karasek grew up in New York City. He created school orchestras on the elementary and secondary levels, and taught music composition and music theory at Long Island University. He has lived in Pittsburgh, PA since 1991. His poetry has been published in Blue Arc West: An Anthology of California Poets (Tebot Bach, 2006) and Along These Rivers: Poetry and Photography from Pittsburgh (Quadrant, 2008). His books of poetry, Beyond Waking and Love and the Ten Thousand Things, were published in 2009 by Tebot Bach.


every so many years somebody’s daddy

gets into his car on a midsummer day and heads west
into the late sun, and beyond to early night

and because the winds have come
he keeps on driving, barely noticing the fallen boughs

and when the mountain road narrows

slams the brakes to a sudden stop
slumps down against the wheel

his wire-haired brows bearing down hard
on his lids

in the blind dull roar watching
the procession

of fathers and of their fathers
as they come to remember

yes of course soon soon he mutters

the beast
rearing up, set loose among crowds

drugged, horns shaved

into a long sleep

only the wild trees
the hollow sound of rain on the roof

a hand a palm

on the other side
spread against the moon

he can’t be far from Denver, maybe

This poem appears in Beyond Waking (Tebot Bach, 2009)

photo in black & white, 1933

Here we are, Mother and I, on the edge—
grey plants and a bare sidewalk,
her feet, already a little thick, spread a bit,
so she won’t slip.

I don’t really want my picture taken again.
(we’ve been through all that before)
She holds me firmly, a large hand
grasping my shoulders,

the other clasped over a handkerchief
in a tight fist, her purse dangling
from her wrist. I’m more than half
her size, my head nearly coming up

to her breast. It’s a little cold today.
I’m dressed in a huge raincoat
buttoned tight around my neck,
the black hood tucked down close,

squeezing my chin. It’s funny how she
stands back against the camera. As if
I’m a kind of shield for her. A cloche
pulled down over her ears, a half-open

coat, a polka dot dress. (She always
wore dresses splattered with polka dots,
that ridiculous coat topped with fake fur.)

What’s going to happen next?
When will the ground crack open again?
How long before we begin to fall?
the cup
                    for Rosaly Roffman

In and among the hills, under the greys and garish pink
alongside the wild goats

My feet tangled in dried burs and tendril,
sore, blistered, trying to find a way though,

I look up, see relics of imagination,
strays that keep wandering in from nowhere.

Forming my palms together in rain,
I taste a few drops before it runs to the ground,

Search, feel for a history that won’t go away.

When the sun finally comes through
          a soft slope, a scattering of trees—

I sit in the stillness
the deepening to which I have fallen.

The poems, “photo in black & white, 1933” and “the cup,” appear in Love and the Ten Thousand Things (Tebot Bach, 2009)