Bridge & Tunnel Books
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The Commute

"Heart Smart" by Paola Corso

Monastery Street Steps, South Side Slopes, Pittsburgh

for Kay Comini


Hiking city steps was her cardio regimen

after open-heart surgery. She saw


different angles of different views

as she climbed and never grew tired of them.


She’d trek up to the monastery,

light a candle, meditate, then start back down,


stopping at the Stations of the Cross

to read prayers engraved in stone.


Along the way, she’d spot wild turkeys

until one day there were none. She imagined


a poor family was hungry and ate them.

This she didn’t pray for, nor another open-heart surgery


she’d have ten years later. Now her workout

is a treadmill by her window looking out


to the city below, to a labyrinth of short roads,

dead-end roads that lead nowhere on foot.


But to a woman who wasn’t expected to live,

who’s grateful to be among the living,


she sees one long road without end,

the road she’s on, keeping on.


PAOLA CORSO is the author of six books of poetry and fiction, all set in her native Pittsburgh, where her Italian immigrant father worked in a steel mill. Honors include a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant, New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellowship, a Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award, and inclusion on Pennsylvania Center for the Book's Literary and Cultural Map. Corso’s latest books are The Laundress Catches Her Breath, winner of the Tillie Olsen Award in Creative Writing, and Once I Was Told the Air Was Not for Breathing, featuring steel and garment workers. She has completed Steppin, a poetry and photography collection featuring city steps exhibited at libraries, galleries, and open studios. Corso is co-founder and resident artist for Steppin Stanzas, a grant-awarded poetry and art project celebrating Pittsburgh public stairways. She is a mentor at Chatham University’s Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing. Visit

Heather McAdams