Arthur Turfa was born in Pittsburgh, PA, and raised near there. He is a second-generation American, and in the first generation of his father’s family who did not work in steel mills. Now living with family in the Midlands of South Carolina, he teaches English and German on the secondary and post-secondary levels. Having been published in the South Carolina English Teachers Journal, he is thrilled by have a wider audience. Places he has been or visited and the people in them play a major role in his writing. An e-book collection of his poetry is under way.
Five Poems by Arthur Turfa
Elegy for a Mill Town: Donora, PA
Well into the sunlit morning
Hardly anyone on the streets
Or sidewalks in front of storefronts.
Illegible street signs proclaim
Familiar names in depressed times.
A faint flurry of activity
From where steel was made round the clock
On the bend down by the river
Flowing northward to join others.
Long ago bustled the streets thronged the stores.
Schools teemed with youth, old country memories
Recalled in accents of many languages.
Between the comic books and lemon drinks
At Hurk’s, stare a bishop and St. Louis
Cardinal, framed above a rolltop desk.
Sam, and Joe cutting hair, running numbers
From Aqua Velva- scented shop.
The Greek’s tables and booths full all the time.
Up the hill percolating coffee wafts,
Mingles with Pall Mall, Camels, and cooking
As three generations gathered, discussing
The exploits of simple sons-of-bitches
Down at the mill or even in Washington
Presented without any commercials.
Not even 20 mile away,
Faster driving by Interstate,
Slower because Route 88
Meanders through woods and farms.
There hundreds of light years away
Are activity and future
Traffic jams wherever you look
Places to go and things to do
Appearing in the Here and Now.
But most of the Valley’s children
Have wandered much farther away
A half century after their
Grandparents sought their own fortunes
In new towns huddled on the hills
Which fall down into the river.
My Two Paths
My two paths do not diverge within a
yellow wood, unlike the famous poem
occasionally serving as basis
for a commencement, a five-paragraph essay
and sermon when infused poetry lifts
the banal to soaring tours de force
in ionospheres of profundity.
On the contrary, my two paths parallel
each other along ridges stretching as
far as can be seen, separated by
deceptively-shallow gullies and creeks,
blue ribbons between trees, bushes, and fields.
Once fog-lifted from the other path
as arduous shows the way I journeyed,
going downhill, strangers or friends pointed
out the trail, offering encouragement
as I began the ascent, not losing
too much ground as I resumed my route/
If I was alone, I sensed a presence
at every step, bend, or transition,
and when I encountered a very few
who insisted I decide on a trail
and do not lift my gaze to the other ridge
Later learned I not dally with them
or to allow their opinion become
my destiny. Instead I sought those who
stood just about me, encouraging me
to continue on my way to the crest
and savor the view that awaited me.
Now the path wends toward the goal awaiting
me, I turn my gaze to distant mountains
and valleys half-hidden by hanging mists.
Time now to rest under spreading branches
of pleasant trees and enjoy where I have been.
No islander am I, but all the same
I wander green fields that go forever,
Rolling on towards a distant tree line
Or extending along to a sheltered cove.
At times I am invited, encouraged
Even, to stay for longer duration,
Taking my place alongside the others,
Savoring the stillness of hallowed space,
Watching colors brightening with the sun
And listening to wafting songs of praise
Resounding over and over again.
Contentment I find there from distant waves
And storms that come clashing onto the coast,
Until the stinging subtle reminder
That I am sojourner, not citizen.
Then turns my gaze once again to the strand
And beyond to the mainland, hovering
As it were above the waves, beckoning
Me to return and remain there.
On the mainland I indeed have a place
High on a hill. From its wooded crest my
Gaze penetrates the mists which are covering
The island. I have memories of the
Green pleasant hills but now I turn inland
To see the beckoning and distant hills
Never have I stayed this long at the dance
Never have I stayed this long at the dance.
Either by invitation to another,
lured of escaping a dreadful playlist,
I seek more congenial company.
Occasionally I do sit one out,
gazing towards the shadows on the wall
recalling those with whom I once lingered
in this place or somewhere else far away.
Our laughter, our music, as we recall
everything binding us together:
colleagues, classes, crumbing or new buildings,
drama, tragedy, comedy combined,
strewn over the miles and distant decades.
All of it enshrined and revivified
in the retelling, linking yet others
as shared memory enlivens the now,
shadows coloring, brightening the night.
Grey, blue, brown-eyed glances, fleeting fast smiles,
comfort amidst routine and required toil
expressing more than what they realize,
sustaining far longer than anything else
ever could or will, comforting the night.
Few places calm me as the woods.
Whether greening, bursting with spring
or bare-branched in winter, pleading
for the cycle to turn again.
Few places calm me as the woods.
At first I was not on my own.
Older boys showed me how to look,
to tell one leaf from the others,
where the water moccasins lived,
over the hills to Ten-Mile-Creek.
Each adventure brought something new.
I went on Braddock’s March or deep
into the Ardennes, with Boone
and Crockett away from the city.
Whether alone or in a group
happiest was I in those woods.
Dawned the day to search for the sun
leaving everything that I knew
and loved far beyond the mountains.
New sights and tones awaited me
Dawned the day to search for the sun.
Behind houses built to look the same
the drainage ditch led to limestone
kilns, quarries two hundred years old
and railroad between the rivers.
The long, low-lying hill beckoned
to destiny waiting for me
yet too early was it for me.
In time the woods led the back way
to the Mall straddling the Pike.
Shadows lengthening, colder air
confined me to the loud house
near the corner of another
residence on a dead-end street.
Years and continents later on
I drove by where woods had been.
Larger, brighter colored houses
settled on fields and woods I roamed.
Where in the hell do kids now go?
Now more woods than ever I had
but far less time to savor them.
Tall Southern pines loom over oaks,
Loblollies and others. Early spring
brings flashes of wisteria
purpling as I pass on my way.
Only an occasional path
leads from the paved road deeper in;
otherwise it is hard going
whether with dog or all alone
through brush and low-lying branches.
Here I remain on the paved road;
enough time have I been in deep
woods, sleeping in tents, vehicles,
even under stars and branches,
through enough undergrowth and weeds
navigating my way forward
to personal growth or complete
retirement, regardless of which
I find first or makes itself known.
Most adventures lie in the past.
My motivations now are health-
or sanity-related. I
reflect and plan more concretely
instead of allowing my mind
to wander as used to do.
Happiest am I in the woods.