Easter In Pittsburgh

04/07/2015 12:04 pm ET | Updated Apr 13, 2015

easter in pittsburgh

Even on Easter Sunday
when the church was a

jungle of lilies and
ferns fat Uncle Paul

who loved his liquor
so would pound away

with both fists on the
stone pulpit shouting

sin sin sin and the
fiery fires of hell

and I cried all after-
noon the first time I

heard what they did to
Jesus it was something

the children shouldn’t
know about till they

were older but the new
maid told me and both

of us cried a lot and so
mother got another one

right away & she sent
away Miss Richardson

who came all the way
from England because

she kept telling how
her fiancé Mr. Bowles-

Lyon died suddenly of
a heart attack he just

said one day at lunch
I’m afraid I’m not well

and the next thing they
knew he was sliding un-

der the table. Easter
was nice the eggs were

silly but the big lilies
were wonderful & when

Uncle Paul got so fat
from drinking that he

couldn’t squeeze into
the pulpit anymore &

had to preach from the
floor there was an el-

ders’ meeting and they
said they would have

the pulpit rebuilt but
Uncle Paul said no it

was the Lord’s manifest
will and he would pass

his remaining years in
sacred studies I liked

Thanksgiving better be-
cause that was the day

father took us down to
the mills but Easter I

liked next best and the
rabbits died because we

fed them beet tops and
the lamb pulled up the

grass by the roots and
was sold to Mr. Page the

butcher I asked Uncle
Robert what were sacred

studies he said he was
not really sure but he

guessed they came in a
bottle and mother sent

me away from the table
when I wouldn’t eat my

lamb chops that was
ridiculous she said it

wasn’t the lamb of God
it was just Caesar An-

dromache Nibbles but I
couldn’t I just couldn’t

& the year of the strike
we didn’t go to Church

at all on Easter because
they said it wasn’t safe

down town so instead we
had prayers in the library

and then right in the mid-
dle the telephone rang it

was Mr. Shupstead at the
mill they had had to use

tear gas father made a
special prayer right a-

way for God’s protection
& mercy and then he sent

us out to the farm with
mother we stayed a week

and missed school but it
rained a lot and I broke

the bathroom mirror and
had to learn a long psalm.

James Laughlin, “Easter in Pittsburgh” from Poems New and Selected. Copyright © 1996 by James Laughlin. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Poetry (March 1940).

This poem first appeared on

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