Poetry Suite by Dion O’Reilly

Editor Sam Preminger, Poetry, August 15th, 2019

"Sometimes, I prayed for the return of my sins."

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Poetry by Dion O’Reilly

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Springtime: The Dog Jumps on the Bed and Bites You as We Fuck,

And I Feel Young Again

 

Sometimes, I prayed for the return of my sins.

Jesus, Let me sin again. I couldn’t help it.

Look at the iconography of my tribe.

Lean long-hairs nailed up like rock stars.

Saints, starving like haute models. Half naked.

Full of arrows. The royal-blue beauty

of the crying mother. Arms crossed

over her bleeding heart.

Like the single mom I once was, bored

of my kids, tired

of staring at the slide, waiting

for an accident.

An eye watched me all day

as I bathed the filthy,

added cheese to dimpled wafers.

Night bulged, darker than water.

But today, the house is quiet. Just you

and the meddlesome dog, whining

like an archangel. Kick her off,

lock her out. She can pester the door.

Babe. Come back here. I don’t love you,

but I’ll pull you in—

my old body, dry as a copperhead.

Let’s fight

with pitted eyes and razor spurs.

Then sleep into each other,

until we’re grafted apple trees—

the softness of our petals

becoming wind. Let’s rise up again,

say goodbye to everything.

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Roots

Perhaps the most striking characteristic of roots… is that [they] originate and develop from an inner layer of the mother axis. College Botany, Volume-1 by HC Gangulee, KS Das and CT Datta

…i mean any word
traced to its origin is a small child begging for water. Sam Sax

 

I. Evolution

 

The few things that could kill us

when we lived in trees—

Snakes coiled in branches.

Falling. Others of our kind.

 

Whatever we find out about ourselves

under mounds in the jungle. Stone beds

of the dead, grooved with runnels

for carrying blood. Obsidian knives

to slice through breast bones,

lift our slippery hearts to the sun.

 

Certain smells like petrol and bitumen.

Toxic and appealing.

 

The sadness of orphaned prairies—switchgrass

and sideoats still alive under fences. Seed heads

in front of a plow—gloved hands

waving Goodbye,    Goodbye.

 

II. Generation

 

Memories of my mother’s rough palms

that she spat on

to clean my face. The smell of spit.

 

The thousand ways I was taught

to smile and shake hands.

 

My behavior in public. Words falling

like family china from my fingers.

 

Yellowy photos of broken men who loved me.

Knowing they ruined my children.

My children’s pain displacing my own.

 

III. Stories

 

Constantine changing his mind. The angel Jibrīl

looming over a dirt floor in Hira,

Mohammed watching, perplexed.

 

A herd miles wide we tried to

pile into bones. A blanket of fat pigeons in the sky

we wanted to prick light into.

 

An Archduke and Duchess, shot. The gorgeous head

of a mushroom cloud over Bikini Atoll.

 

Layered gelatin sparkling in compote glass

that made a Boer decide

on Apartheid.

 

The biggest lie about the past

is that it’s past. The present, a wall,

To keep history from swarming

the future.

 

Watch, as you lean against the redwood,

the starling flits, their flying matched

to any music you can think of.

 

The roots just below you

sending out their fingers,

trying to hold on to other trees.

 

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Looking

We live our lives in one place
and look in every moment into another— Jane Hirshfield

 

I used to beg my parents to drive through suburbs,

so I could stare at tract homes, the bland windows

and porticos full of tipped-over trikes. I liked

to parse the three or four different house models,

study the flourishes— garden statues of seven dwarves,

shrubs like poodles, wagon wheels

resting on white-quartz lawns.

It made me sick how much I wanted it—

a mom with fixed-up hair,

a dad in an apron holding a Hamm’s

and flipping spare ribs. A cul-de-sac

full of boys shooting hoops, little girls

holding hands because they couldn’t bear

to unbraid their shared delight.

Different from the dirt farm where we lived,

where I felt lucky to escape, for one day,

the slash of a horsewhip, where

I was told to carry my plate to the floor,

eat my dinner next to five sad mastiffs,

each of us gulping a slab of freshly-butchered bull heart.

I must have been crazy to return to that farm,

to raise my twins there, close

to the smell of mountain lilac and chicken shit.

The woman who looked itchy as she beat me

became a doting grandmother who fed them

homemade cheese on Red Delicious, bought them

pink and blue Oshkosh from catalogues,

walked them through pastures to touch

the nose of a newborn Jersey.

And now, more than half-a-century past, my mother

still stares out the window at the pigsty, curdles

her milk and stirs the whey with a wooden spoon.

And sometimes it’s hard to believe

I’m here too, slouched in the spruced-up barn

near dying oaks and a cow field,

drinking pots of bitter tea and looking at people

on Facebook holding up goblets of yellowy wine

or standing on Half Dome, arms lifted like gods.

I’m here so she can call me if she falls

or needs to talk about the hawk that drops down

and rips the neck of her pampered bantam,

her pain, almost too much to bear.

 

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This morning, a coyote

 

paced across the path, laughing at us,

light as a ghost, pink tongue resting

on his teeth. My terrier lost her mind

chased him down to the rocky bottomlands.

I couldn’t follow. Could only hear her screaming,

while buzzards tilted above me.

 

I covered my ears with my palms. Began

walking home. An hour later, she returned.

Limping. Riddled with burs and small punctures.

 

Why isn’t the well-worn trail enough?

It loops around a meadow. Pricked by birdsong. Live

oaks dripping like metronomes. Ancient pines

swimming in mist. I look back at my house,

and its red paint appears joyous.

 

Do I look happy? I gave up predators

long ago. Although one left a tooth in the tender

skin of my neck. Oh, stupid dog, I’ll never

blame you. Always looking for

distractions in the fabulous stink of pheromones.

 

Is Phoenix waiting for me somewhere?

A brick espresso house. An Alanon meeting?

I want more of his presents—

sketch of a mobius strip, tiny handmade

envelopes made of twenty-dollar bills, stuffed

with poetry borrowed from a Persian poet.

I want to hear his lies about my looks. Believe

I have chosen what chose me.

 

But he escapes. Down the slot canyon.

Stay. Don’t follow, Dion.

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Header image courtesy of Haley Craw. To view her artist feature, go here.

Dion O’Reilly has spent  much of her life on a farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She has worked as a waitress, barista, baker, theater manager, graphic designer, and public school teacher.  Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Sugar House Review, Rattle, The Sun, Massachusetts Review, New Letters, Bellingham Review, Atlanta Review, Catamaran, and a variety of other literary journals and anthologies, including an upcoming Lambda Literary Anthology. Her work has been nominated for Pushcarts, the Intro Journals Project, and was sent to the judges for The Folio Literary Journal Poetry Contest and the Peseroff Prize.

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Sam Preminger

Sam Preminger is a Portland-based poet. Their work has appeared throughout various publications and they hold an MFA from Pacific University.