WHAT FAR AWAY MEANS by Rachel Mennies

What Far Away Means

In western Pennsylvania, the news brings us the ruined ocean.
Flush against the Allegheny, we drink our coffee black
and, thirsty, read and read. We understand:
waterway, pollution. We imagine: brine, gull.

Far away is like a thesaurus of empathy: here, oil
is coal, but lost is lost. Both leave a downturned mouth
of rind under the fingernails, impossible to purge.
And when, tired of walleye and perch, we remember—shrimp

our syntax will complete itself, and we’ll think of how
we’ve dubbed it all Carnegie, built every bridge of steel.
Far away, they take to the summertime beaches with scrubbers
and latex gloves. Far away, the tide coughs and coughs,

while in our mouths, we fork nostalgia: in Pittsburgh restaurants,
imported and frozen, the Gulf catch is in bloom, ready for a taste.


Rachel Mennies is from the Philadelphia area. She studies and teaches creative writing at Penn State, and works as an editorial assistant at AGNI. Recent poems of hers have appeared (or will soon) in Sycamore Review, Meridian, and DIAGRAM.

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