Alley Scatting

Sharon F. McDermott

Like alleys themselves, Sharon McDermott’s poems are tough, gritty and sometimes violent. They are also lively, daring, on edge, and filled with ironic juxtapositions. Many of the poems are literally set in alleyways; others deal with metaphoric passages such as adolescence, midlife, death, sex changes, and daydreams. McDermott is intrigued by “fringe space[s],” the “in-between world[s]” that constitute a “crack between ordered lives,” where “boundaries [are] breached/and breached again.” After all, “in-between is/both about erasure and new blooming.”

Sharon F. McDermott is a visiting lecturer of creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh, where she teaches poetry writing. Her awards include a 2001 Artist Award from The Pittsburgh Foundation and a 2002 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant for poetry. She was recently awarded the Tina and David Bellet Arts and Sciences Teaching Excellence Award from the University of Pittsburgh for her teaching of poetry. She has published poetry in journals nationally, among them Prairie Schooner, The Seneca Review, Poet Lore and Pearl. Though a native of New Jersey, she has raised her son Brian, who is now grown and a photojournalist, in the city of Pittsburgh.

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claim the fringe
space, private horde of trash
cans, chained dogs, sneak
and dodge, the fitful

weeds and thugs between
cracks. The place we fear
on unmooned nights. But
daylight drags children out

from shadows to four squares,
stick ball, their secret cruelties
tagged on crumbling brick.
Lives thicken, furrow,

gangly as weeds–away
from prying eyes of backyard
parents. This in-between
world is Alice’s tumble-

down the hole
of the fantastical. Old homes,
blunt with dust and
arguments, turn their backs.

The hands of danger
linger on the chain-link fence.
Blue glass on asphalt:
cracked jagged, glinting.