Darrell Petska

You Are Here

Your earliest steps made it clear:
life’s surface is ice.

Though the ice seemed thick,
you stepped ever so softly,
preferring humility to presumption.

On occasion you taxed its strength:
agitations of love and anvils of loss
raised fissures that crackled and snapped.

Yet, the ice always held—until now,

frigid water surprising your breath,
healing the ice sheet overhead
as it drags you into the deep.

You believe this is the end,
your eyes tunneling light in the darkness,
your body feeling suspended, adrift—

or the beginning: the transforming depths
find you buoyant, sporting fins and gills
that allow you to carry on, disburdened

of existential worries suddenly irrelevant:
here you are now, swimming.





Skid Row Prayer

Somewhere beyond the pearly gates,
just off the grand street of gold,
lies a back street of gloss, we pray,
providing shelter from all storms.

It's cold as sin on winter's concrete,
hot as hell when summer’s long sun
bakes your weary soles, and lonely
when no one sees you there.

On-high must be a different place
of welcome signs and heartfelt smiles,
clean memory foam and mild breezes,
all-day brunches, coffee klatches

and peaceful dreams all night,
undisturbed by roving cops
prodding with clubs—"move on, move on,"
no 3 a.m. garbage truck or siren’s wail,

just soft strains of the sweet by and by
where the only wealth that counts
is love well spent to warm chilled hearts
and light the way for strayed souls.

But now our clothes and flesh grow thin,
and our strength to work has departed.
With hope's last straw fast dwindling,
pray Heaven's got space for the likes of us.





Darrell Petska’s poetry has appeared in The Chiron Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, Verse-Virtual, and widely elsewhere. Some upcoming publications include Loch Raven Review, Amethyst Review, and Willows Wept Review. Darrell has tallied 30 years on the academic staff at the University of Wisconsin, 40 years as a father (seven years a grandfather), and 50 years as a husband.