PoeArt is an invitation and celebration of creativity within the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project.  We invite WPWP teacher-consultants to submit 3-5 poems; they are then invited to create art or partner with an artist to generate work that is inspired by the selected poem. Typically, we hang the work in a local coffee shop or gallery, and host a poetry reading or reception.  This year, the gallery is virtual, and the reading was offered via Zoom on Thursday, April 30, 2020.


An Author’s Promise
by Jacqueline Ahlborn; artwork by Maima Adiputri
They say that books take you to faraway places
To lands that you never imagined
But they envision so much more
They are storytellers and story holders
A reflection
Shaping your identity
Instilling self-confidence
Cultivating your inner self
Faces, families, traditions, and languages
An aperture
For ones to understand
Honoring your culture
Accepting your diversity
To experience this must not be left to fate

So delicate this doily/heart

by Rosanne Cipollone; artwork by Rosanne Cipollone

This doily/my heart:

yarned holes delicately, together
intertwined, thread laced.
I inherited this heart—

how do I care for it?

Sublime, easily unraveled:
careful/spike stitch/spike heart.
Words/sewn together/hidden.
It may unravel,
add more stitches/more love.

Yet lovely/spiked heart/strong stitch:
meant for show/hands off my doily.
Stitch it together:
spike heart/my heart
lovely doily/mend it.


by Tracie Hart; artwork by Tracie Hart
Crisp, pale, empty, paper-thin
Like the skin we’re all in
perfectly plain,
breakable; brittle
words cut like a knife as fragile phrases are robustly dropped
Into warm water, we all sink
Sit and simmer and somewhat stew
Until everything bubbles up around me and you and
There’s nowhere to hide
The heat rises up and incinerates our insides
With exasperation
We’re all finished

Bronze Lady

by Karen Howard; painting by Marilyn Narey

She stands, not a fountain
a woman
splashing in the river of life
the stench of pain surrounds her heart
drying her musty body in the warm morning sun
pleasures turned to tears
children’s laughter from afar
beckons her through the field of fragrant flowers
she walks listening
whispers of birds sing above her moist head…
longing for abandoned joy
she curses her existence.
sadness wells up like beads
within the center of her being
she can’t think.
she journeys back to the mother of her dignity
the spot where – she was joyful
the spot where – she called home
the spot where – she is loved.




for Willie

by Laurel McMahon; artwork by Laurel McMahon

is the Japanese art of
mending broken bowls
with gold, pronouncing the cracks
to create a more beautiful piece
than the original.

She had come to him broken
A body in pieces
Her eyes revealed a pain he recognized

He swept stray hair from her
jawline with the back of his fingertips
“You are so beautiful,”
Her sign had still been shrouded
Until the vessel had been transformed.


The Lambs

by Jane Miller; artwork by Carter, Braddock and Poppy Crytzer; photography by Galen Cocanour  and Joanie Esbenshade

Amid blowing winds,
frozen crystals
Triplet lambs are born
Not enough milk for all
One will die

Daddy enters the kitchen
Father Christmas bearing a gift–
A lamb swaddled in ragged towels
I fed her milk
from a baby doll bottle

The lamb slowly suckles
I stroke knobby wool
Name her as she slumbers,
My lamb awakes,
On wobbly legs, stands

Snowball grows until she is
one with the flock
Yet if I stand on a fence
And call her name.
One ewe arrives at my side

A year of seasons pass
I call and freeze
Watch the flock graze
One ewe arrives,
Bringing her lamb


All I Can Think Of Is Jeffrey Epstein

by Laura Roop; artwork by Laura Roop

A framed Gauguin poster hangs
in my dining room—a remote village
against a mountainscape—but now I know
too much to love it. It simply fills the space
on that blank wall. Maybe I’ll replace it.

Gauguin the stockbroker walked away
from his buttoned-down life. He left
his wife, children, and all modern
conveniences to be free
to make art on Tahiti. He gave up

his suit and vest, his actuarial tables,
the heavy smoke hanging
over factories on the edge of Paris, but
packed a predilection for thirteen-year-olds:
I didn’t know this when I bought it.

Gauguin would tell it differently—his father’s death
on an Atlantic ship, that pampered childhood in Peru,
the sting of poverty in Paris
with his mother. Colonizer. Pedophile.
Your pleasure and your petty needs drive you.

Those stunning palms: roots form a pyramid
to hold the trunks. No longer can I focus
on brushwork, vivid contrast, the singular line.
Under the pandanus
those girls, those women, the pillaged landscape.


Savor the Grit

by Lucy Ware; artwork by Lucy Ware

I love salt.
Its piercing prick on tongue,
the relief of drink.
Licking the top of the shaker at 4,
loving the sensation of metal’s salty holes.

Alive with tingle.
Mixed in desserts,
caramels, cookies, cakes,
sprinkled on a just so watermelon.
Salt elevates sweet.
Chips, rock salted pretzels, nuts,
antidotes for too much sweetness.
Kettlecorn stirred hot with salt sugar mix
on buttery fingers.

Salt preserves.
pulling moisture from raw meat,
turning jerky, tough as taffy.
Salt defines dull cucumber,
promotes potatoes,
gives its appeal of salty smoke to bacon.
Salt etches distinction.
Its sharp tang pops in my mouth.
Savor its grit, sassy, frank, bold.
Grind pure sea salt, pink Himalayan,
toss kosher to float, then melt in tomato soup.
crust glasses of margaritas.

Monitored portioned,
too much salt elevates the blood.
Dust a little salt to release stick of soft dough
on the stainless steel bowl.
Salt is abrasion.
Pour over sun baked black and brown skin
wounds dug by the lash
a hated brine to punish.
salt draws impurities, cleansing
in pain.
Face traced by salty tears.

Throw salt over your shoulder.


Stardust: Ode to Margaret Burbridge

by Leslie Wessner; artwork by Thea Wessner

They say
I can’t look
up –

They fear
I will leave my
on Earth –
lonely little dots
on a swirling blue ball.

They blame me
for the red, hot love affair
between the moon and Neptune’s tides.

They are afraid
I will create a whole new universe
just with my eyes and head
like a Titan.
I will
blast through the atmospheric white picket fence
give gravitational birth to weightlessness
and make black hole girl scout cookies
using Saturn’s rings like galactic mixer.
I’ll bake celestial cakes with comet tails,
scoop up empty space with the Big Dipper
and top it with the Milky Way.
I’ll measure out enough glare of the sun
to melt Mars, folding its orange cream around Orion’s belt
and sift Venus’ clouds through my sticky fingers
I’ll frost poor Pluto while cracking open Jupiter,
whisking it into an unrecognizable froth and
knead Mercury until it yields.

Then I’ll sprinkle it all with stardust and sell it at the bake sale.


The Birds are Making a Ruckus

by Rita Wilson; painting by Rita Wilson

The birds are making a ruckus.
I can hear them from where I sit,
half-in, half-out of my Chevy SUV
as the gas pumps sluggishly into my tank.

My fingers are cold from removing my gloves
to take out the credit card,
and I feel the wind bite my thighs
through my cotton jeans.

The chatter is coming from the tall tree
near the road.  Like children outside at recess,
it is loud and constant and insistent.
This tree is still covered with green leaves,
although most are already bare.
We’ve raked our yard twice.

Last week it was 70 degrees,
but the thermometer in my car reads 28.
These leaves will be dropped by Monday.
Then, what about the birds?
Are they angry? Confused? Concerned?
For a moment I worry, picturing tiny bodies
huddled on naked branches.

The pump bumps to a stop.
I pull the nozzle from the fuel filler and hang it up,
Shut the gas cap, get in the car,
and close the door.


They Eat Their Dreams

by Emily Yowonske; sculpture by Terra Lee Mayes

In their family,
they pick their passions carefully:
Don’t take it if you won’t eat it.
They eat their dreams one bite at a time.

Before she was a mother:
We can see her
a woman
sizing up a piece of the pie.

Arriving at a certain age,
she begins the careful calculations,
weighing her chances at love
against the graceful fall of her hourglass body.

She balances the equation
with an education,
labors work hours and course hours
to ensure her candidacy for whatever lies ahead.

After she was a mother:
Her daughter uncovers
a dusty degree
tucked in a drawer beneath old baby clothes.

In their family,
her mother is the picky eater.
On her plate, the food
never touches.


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