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Returning to Cleveland

07 April, 2018: Returning to Cleveland


by Ruth Coffey

Returning to Cleveland

My father died in Ireland the day before
Christmas Eve and three weeks later
I return to Cleveland and two feet
of snow.  It has been this way
for years, the splintered winters.
Departures and arrivals back
to a haunting stillness that grips the Lake
hiding motion beneath a skin of ice.
The alienation of loss takes hold
as I drive north from Hopkins, exiting
at 25th as the petrol blue of morning
hints at sun.  Everything is afloat
in white – a boat drifts in a back yard,
power lines tug low. Once we drove
to Dublin in a fog as thick as wool
and joked we’d have to read our way home
using one hand on the line in the middle
of the road.  There is no-one I know here
who can picture that story with him
in it.  Storm-slick roads make moving slow
until the West Side Market where pale light
kisses red brick and aisles tremble like a hive. 
I could be anywhere wandering a map of faces,
flags in every voice. The lungs of one breathe
Lebanon and his home town where his sister
is visiting their mother, now 89 years old.
Three generations of his family flurry behind
pyramids of fruit, asking ‘Where have you been?’.
Head bowed he cuts through the soft flesh
of a fresh pear, cradled by calloused fingers.
He beckons as he carves, cupping the air,
each wave reaching like an oar extended
by his upturned hand and his brown eyes
that know how it feels to be a third nationality.
‘Taste this’ he offers and I understand the meaning
of an open palm is that something lost is shared.
“Returning to Cleveland” by Ruth Coffey, from Songs in the Key of Cleveland: An Anthology of the 2013 Best Cleveland Poem Competition. Crisis Chronicles Press, 2014. Used by permission of the author.
Originally from Ireland, Coffey now lives in Cleveland. She enjoys writing poetry and her work has been published in such publications as Canary Poetry Journal and the Boston Literary Review. Her work was shortlisted for the Fish Publishing Prize in Ireland. Her passion for poetry and the written word extends into her nonprofit work with America Scores Cleveland, an organization that provides after-school programming in sports and creative writing for students in 10 Cleveland Metropolitan School District locations.


“The fog comes in on little cat feet,” wrote Carl Sandburg. Write a 14-line poem that uses the word “fog” at least seven times. You may or may not present fog metaphorically, and you may use synonyms for fog (mist, murk, haze, smog) in place of the word “fog.” 

Want to see clearer
Fog covered eyes
Thickening fog of my life
Look to the future
Less clear, more murky

From foggy bottom
to the fog of the Great Lake
Foggy and fuzzy logic
That no one understands

I see clearly, no matter the fog
My heart is clear
My eyes open to the
Great Lakes lighthouse
Fog be damned
4/8/2018 10:02:36 AM

Ginger Meeder
A Thief In The Night

white halos dead straight
ahead flash like spotlights in
dense fog that has crept
wrapping itself around all
that breathes stealing their secrets

—©g.a.meeder, ®2017
4/7/2018 9:38:34 PM

N. K. Hasen
A Ghost Ship Comes Out Of Fog

Erie fog slips in upon the ocean’s surface
Waves beat against old timber
Faint glow seeps through fog
Ghostly bow breaks through haze
Galleon wooden ghost ship comes into view
Fog billows around ghost ship
As she slowly plods onward to no where
Deck shrouded in fog; no crew can be seen
Silent in dead of night come the ghost ship
With dense fog; cannot penetrate through
Once a year in cold December
Ship creeps through the dense fog sailing
Never reaching its destination of home
Stuck to wander with a fog in tow forever
4/7/2018 6:25:26 PM

Lynne Shayko
The fog welcomes me home.
A swarthy haze sets up residence
Within the bones of my living room,
Encircling me with its brazen grasp.

I blink within the velveteen mist.
The belligerence of smog
Renders me immobile.

Did the long march of grad school
Create this murk, or is it another
Omen of climate change,
The haze of a winter that overstayed?

Then you look up,
Your eyes piercing my dusky cloud.
I find hope again.
4/7/2018 10:55:52 AM

Nancy Vanderstein
Wonderful poem.
4/7/2018 10:49:17 AM

READ + WRITE: 30 Days of Poetry is a collaboration between Cuyahoga County Public Library and poet Diane Kendig. Our thanks go to Diane and the poets of Northeast Ohio who allowed us to share their poetry.