Topography, Age 19 | Literary Arts | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Topography, Age 19 

I open my eyes: standing over me a black woman in a maid's uniform. She quietly
picks his clothes up

from the floor. In a bed, on Long Island, still wearing my dress from last night.
Beside me, he is snoring.

It all comes back: running for the outdoor train up the escalator, almost to
the platform.

Him jerking my arm steel-ridged treads jutting skin breaking florescent hands
fourteen stitches.

He wakes, I tell him it hurts. He shrugs, eats, returns me to Jones Beach where
we sun, he swims, pulls

at my suit straps, but pays no mind to my wound. My knee looks swollen. Dizzy
by the time he drops me

that night in Manhattan. My dorm is sticky. August in New York City. Sweat drips
from lamp shades and bedding.

New roommates: an Israeli studying medicine shakes her head tells me:
your leg

shouldn't be that swollen offers pot for the pain. Burning up by morning. Ambulance
doctor needle

under my knee. Three weeks of windowless hours, sirens, at last
limping back alone

to my dorm on East 10th Street. New York shoves in close, but ignores me.
Me. Impregnable, inviolate now.

— Tess Barry

Tess Barry has a master’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh and a master’s in Creative Writing/Poetry from Carlow University. She was a finalist for North American Review’s 2012 and 2013 James Hearst Poetry Prize. A finalist for Aesthetica Magazine’s (England/UK) 2013 and 2014 Poetry Award, Barry was also shortlisted for the 2014 international Bridport Poetry Prize (England/UK). Her poems have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in North American Review, Aesthetica Magazine’s Creative Writing 2015 Annual and Carlow University’s anthology Voices from the Attic Vol. XX. In March, her work was featured on Ireland’s RTE 1 weekly radio program Sunday Miscellany. Barry is a fellow of the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project and longtime member of Carlow University’s Madwomen in the Attic writing workshops. She teaches English, literature and creative writing at Robert Morris University, and is a longtime resident of Pittsburgh’s historic South Side. Many writers featured in Chapter & Verse are guests of Prosody, produced by Jan Beatty and Ellen Wadey. Prosody airs every Saturday morning on WESA 90.5 FM.


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