Beautiful Ashes: Shelley Puhak


Presented by Jen Michalski, for PANK. For a description of this guest series, click here



Arthur, on the History of Anxiety

which starts with the river and you who were lured
and we who languished, who took no
chances, said I’m not going to try

to float across on that and so survived.
Where the Patapsco is bridged with steel,
you launch that raft and someone else

paddles back through storm’s
pooled light. One who wades
through daylight, reciting:

Hard rock of the piedmont begat tidewater
plains, widgeon grass and wild rice. Begat
mill and merchant prince, sailing vessel and

steamer, begat things like sock garters and
high silk hats. Begat what runs alongside:

the snort of the steel horse and the huff
of the mother, ever-steeled, who begat
galloping heart and EKG machine.


O, the authority of rivers and
the awful wall of us—mast and sail,

mortar and rust—pushing back.
And who is left to clean it all up? we

who took no chances, and so survived
to pick through your slough —cast-iron

skillet, rocking horse head, ’67 Thunderbird
manifold, blue-glass chaff, electric typewriter

keys, garnet rosary beads, and the mill
workers’ stone homes, brick by tumbled brick. Continue reading