The Doctor Makes His Diagnosis*

I have two cities but only one home

that is my mother’s womb
with one long umbilical cord
that reaches across thousands
of frequent flyer miles.

I have two apartments and one window

filled with pleats of light
and a sooty curtain
that no matter the color
is a checkered gray.

I have “an abiding devotion” to my birthplace,

so when I go back to Pittsburgh,
I’m stupida for living in Brooklyn
and when I’m living in Brooklyn,
I’m mad with longing.

I have an “afflicted imagination”

that incapacitates my body, causing
nausea, loss of appetite, high fever,
pathological changes in the lungs,
brain inflammation, and cardiac arrest.

I have a “lifeless and haggard countenance,”

an “idleness conducive to daydreaming”
about thick village milk and Iron City beer,
about the sounds of bagpipes and Terrible Towels
whipping in stadium winds.

I have three college degrees and seven bookcases

but rely solely on “associationist magic.”
When I climb the stairs to the torch
of the Statue of Liberty, I imagine being
at the top of an idle factory smokestack.

I have a “highly contagious disease” but curable

if you purge my stomach, induce torture and pain.
I can be ridiculed, laughed out of my homesickness
unless you see me as a working-class woman
who does a white-collar job with blue-collar hands.


1 Swiss Doctor Johannes Hofer coined the word “nostalgia” in his 1688 medical dissertation Dissertatio Medica de Nostalgia.

Paola Corso is a New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow and author of a book of poems Death by Renaissance (2004) set in her native Pittsburgh river town where her Italian immigrant grandfather and father worked in the steel mill. Her story collection Giovanna’s 86 Circles, also set in Pittsburgh, is forthcoming from the University of Wisconsin Press. Email her at