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Tom O’Donnell

The Other Wife

If you hadn’t already been told of her,

of the soft nudge of her breasts at your back,

the delicate, tuliped, fruit-picker’s grip

on your heart, the lips and breath cool

against the pulse of your carotid, you may very

well panic when the hawk’s eyes swivel

down to lock on yours and, like a pair of katana

drawn, releases from the hemlock’s leader

and plummets the terrifying zip-line

of your complicity, and she tightens her

grip and whispers: You want to see? Then,

be still and see―as the silent, sweeping,

blade-like intensity of hawk veers upwards

at the very last second, displaying

precisely how one’s very last second appears.

Giant Step

The night

is not at fault

for disguising that hole

you fell into.

Nor is the water

bright at the bottom of it.

Which should have alerted

you; I mean, really,

stars below?

Or were you momentarily

confused, looking up

past your shoe

as you

hung there

upside down,

everything in the known

universe lunging

forward to

slap you awake.

Saint October

We couldn’t bear the side-show atmosphere―

the jeering throng, the smug gaiety, the anticipation.

So we fled by the eastern gate. Not long after,

we spotted evidence from her pyre curling up

above the hills; but it wasn’t smoke, it was wisps

of tumbling night, vortices of soft erasure,

stars filtering through on the hard blue day.

Later, we were told of how that same fire

released not heat, but a sweet, moist breath; and

of how the assembly, enthralled, fell to their knees

when she was inhaled whole back into the ash wood

and maple, and the fire flared cold and white as

a frost, its colors dispersed in the trees.

Poetry Warning

How do you know?

Easy, ozone rinsing the air,

the dog spooked under the bed,

the leaves baring their pale,

scribable undersides.

Those clouds,

like ink released in water. Listen―

a faint music seeds the wind;

and the bees,

the bees are jitterbugging


User Friendly

The poems you’ve been reading

are watching you,

taking notes,

making adjustments.

They’re learning what it is you like

and what you don’t,

what it is you expect.

Soon, each poem will be the poem

you’ve been searching for,

each astonishment

and pleasure

tailored specifically

to you.

So easy―

at which point

you can lie back, captive,

and consumed.


Tom O'Donnell is a retired librarian living in Providence RI.


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