Lower Price Hill is…. The Lower Price Hill Women’s Group

Earlier this week I had the privilege of meeting with the Lower Price Hill Women’s Group at Santa Maria Community Services’ new space on Glenway. Nancy Laird, Donna Jones, Melissa Cornelius and a half dozen or so other Lower Price Hill movers and shakers shared their neighborhood with me. They talked, I wrote it down as fast as I could, and then we crafted poems from what they told me. Here’s what we made. I hope you also treasure this glimpse inside a very special community.

Lower Price Hill

Lower Price Hill is
bringing dishes for each other’s families
when comfort is needed:
Donna’s meatloaf, the other Donna’s
“beangemese,” Sue’s loaded potatoes,
Patty’s baked beans (but I like her potato salad),
Lori’s mashed potatoes,
Steve’s chocolate cake,
(I bring the pop) and oh my God,
your pineapple-upside-down-cake
is the bomb!
And Julie brings, brings, brings—
she gives, gives, gives.

Lower Price Hill is
Mattie always saying, “Why weren’t you at church!”
Donna saying, “Let’s go eat, Sue!”
(No matter where we are
it’s always about food.) Fred says,
“Let’s get that haunted house going!”
and Jim, “We’ve gotta have something for the kids,”
(They’re on their third generation of Lower Price Hill kids.)

Lower Price Hill is
everyone always doing something for someone.

Lower Price Hill is
our joy, our pride, our pain, our sorrow.

It’s where family doesn’t necessarily mean blood.

Composed by Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel with words by The Lower Price Hill Women’s Group

Tommy O

“We’ve had a lot of loss.”

“Hey, Mom,” he’d say to Donna,
pucker to kiss her cheek,
“The girls are okay today!”
(But don’t get him started on Connie!)
He’d be up around Meiser’s,
before Nancy’d be parked, he’d be at the car,
asking, “What can I carry today?”
(Usually it was her purse.)
He’d say, “I’m Nancy’s right-hand man!”
But he had some left-hand people too.

This summer he got shot in the leg,
it was a ricochet, no hospital would keep him,
thank God the bullet didn’t hit a bone.
It was pushing up and when they finally
took it out and Nancy changed the dressing,
she found a wad of blue jean in the wound.
After that it healed well.

When he wasn’t on his meds
he could be hard to deal with,
wearing his robe and flashing everyone.
Once he shot the stop sign there on State,
flashbacks to the war.
On his meds nothing could rile him.
He always had trinkets for the kids.

This fall his heart couldn’t take it anymore.
After the first heart attack, he walked all the way
up the long hospital driveway, pajamas and socks.
You can’t keep a good man down,
that was Tommy.
After the second,
twenty minutes without oxygen,
he’s not the Tommy we know.

His presence is already missed
in Lower Price Hill.
On Sunday, Reverend Nelsa
showed the empty offering basket
before she sent it round—
all the pennies and quarters and dimes
Tommy would have picked up from the street—
not there.
A war veteran on paper,
a Lower Price Hill veteran by heart:
that’s Tommy O.

Composed by Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel with words by The Lower Price Hill Women’s Group.

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Author: Pauletta Hansel

Pauletta Hansel is a poet, memorist, teacher and editor. On April 15, 2016 she was named Cincinnati's first Poet Laureate. Pauletta is author of five poetry collections, Tangle (Dos Madres Press, 2015), The Lives We Live in Houses (Wind Publications, 2011), What I Did There (Dos Madres Press, 2011), First Person (Dos Madres Press, 2007) and Divining (WovenWord Press, 2002). Her poetry has been featured recently in journals including Talisman, Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine, Appalachian Journal, Atlanta Review, Postcards Poems and Prose and Still: The Journal, and anthologized in Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia; Motif: Come What May; and Motif: All the Livelong Day. Pauletta leads community poetry workshops and retreats in the Greater Cincinnati area and beyond, and has served as Writer-in Residence at Thomas More College in her native Kentucky. She is a co-editor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the literary publication of Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative. Pauletta received her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte.

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