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Dan Reilly

History of Her Own Unattainable

She walks away

backwards and turning

clutching something

in her arms

again and again

she steps uncertain

along dark streets

fearful and seeking 

a way out

of this dim town

west of the platitudes

and just north 

of the miseries

she pauses

runs fingers through hair

that falls as ash

contemplating the choice

she cannot have

the essential thing absent

not there, not then.

Mothers Die Young

   for Biancha

You will imagine how 

your mother died

what she was

thinking, your thoughts 

will change

as you get older.

I know this

and pass on to you

the sadness and fear

of a child lost

alone in the forest

you know the story

all the wolves

a magic toad or mirror

it's your story now

go ahead and say 

what you didn't.

My mother forty years gone

still stands 

on my chest sometimes

but she is light 

like spirits must be and

I don't choke anymore

on the scent of eucalyptus.

We weren't there

when she died

we only did 

what we could sometimes 

mothers die young.

Dei Ex Machina

Nut is dying. Nut, my mother the sky goddess who swallows the sun each day then gives birth to light in the morning, lies weak on a narrow pallet in her small room of many gilt-edged mirrors and an old china cabinet of curved glass. She is dark as the earth beneath us, her eyes blackened from death, and she's languid, turning her head slowly, sighing. What can we do without her, I wonder, as we reminisce about our past together, my childhood, and a trip to Atlantic City, a long wooden pier, the hot sun.

“It’s summer,” she says, “you children are eight or ten years old.”

“Yes," I reply, "the hotel window is tall, opens in with no screen. Nothing between me and the ocean’s horizon.”

“The bicycles.”  

Her laugh, ever so slight, raises infinitesimal motes of dust twinkling dimly in the air between us like distant constellations brought close.

“Your father rents bicycles built for two.”

The beach sand is warm, fine. Bright crystals reflect in the child’s fingers that are my fingers, now, years later. My bones are these grains of sand, faraway tiny little bits, my bones, my loves, my everything, cascading between fingers. Human phantasms walk the boardwalk in blinding sunlight, or glide-by silently on wide-tired bicycles, a tableau, a drama staged by surrealists . . . dei ex machina, the gods descend, the gods descend.

Dan Reilly lives with his wife Aggie in the Adirondacks where he had his first reading thanks to Mohawk poet Maurice Kenny. As a young man, he was lucky enough to attend classes by novelist Max Yeh and poet James Crenner; he worked in films and construction, bartended, driven truck and taxi, written for a newspaper, taught in prisons, owned a business, and lived in NYC and LA. His poetry was first published in Pif Magazine. He was a featured writer on The New Guard's BANG!page. Poems and stories have appeared in Closed Eye Open, Beyond Words Magazine, Obelus Journal, The Ocotillo Review of Kallisto Gaia Press and SPLASH! of Haunted Waters Press. His story "Muffled and Distant" received honorable mention in a Flash Fiction Magazine contest. "Dream an Emptiness" won third prize in poetry at The Chestnut Review. He and Aggie are just completing a children’s book. Artist Gail Foster is collaborating with him on a chapbook. Website:

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