by Paula Hilton

Breathing Room

Argument loops,
out of control.
“I’m moving out!”
he yells.

Rant continues.
Her mind wanders.
All the furniture? His.

House will be empty.
She’ll not hurry to fill it.
Will savor open spaces.

He dislikes pets.
She’ll get a calico cat.
Name it Sappho.

As if startled
by silence,
he recants.

“You know
I love you.
I’m not going

She blinks.
Rubs eyes.
Shakes head
to clear it but can’t
stop imagining
her breathing room.


Winter Mourning


How easily
diamond slipped
from her finger
into his waiting
hand. Ring box
looked shocked
when he pressed
the hard promise
back into velvet
tongue. Closed
its gaping mouth
with a click.


She finds herself riding a bus
through the Pittsburgh snow.
Heater sounds like an auditorium
full of people all exhaling—ahh.

A guide dog pants at master’s
feet, its drool spotting the
suede of his brown loafers.

A woman, in a long skirt
too thin for the cold, pulls
her knees into her chest,
hugs herself, softly hums.

Daycare workers struggle
to make toddlers keep
their mittens on. On, On.
Keep… Them… On.


Outside, skyscapes, buildings
whir past. Bus lurches, stops.
Her stop. Sidestepping puddle
of Coke, she walks down the aisle.

A man whispers, “Hey” in her
ear and is gone. Fumbling,
she drops her bus pass. Catches
another glimpse of blind man,

squirming children, woman
humming her song.

She plans to stand still,
to watch for a while,
but driver taps her
on the shoulder. Says,

“Lady, you’ve got to move on.”


Pittsburgh Steel

Born in a snowstorm.
Schooled in a City of Steel.
Surrounded by champions,
at first—shy, tongue-tied.

She picked up pens.
Found her voice.
Turned scribbles,
dreams into poems,
stories, novel, this praise
song for being forged inside
a Cathedral of Learning.

For surviving blast furnace
of feedback,

Praise for being ore
successfully smelted
on the streets
of Fifth Avenue
and Forbes. Fiercer,
stronger than before.

Praise song for city
that made her hero
of her own story.
As we all are.
As we all are.


Photo by Philipp Birmes from Pexels