Dan O'Brien

Two Poems

The Poet's Wife's Friend's Final Words

to the poet are disembodied. Sounds
like another hit! she texts. He marvels
at her apparent opinion. She greets
them in the corridor, blood burned off, skin
like grass under a stone. A memory
already, sojourning through a strata
of then and now at once. Her paper mask
unmasks her eyes. Her paper gown. Hearing
what's coming as she goes. They wash their hands
before embracing, the poet fearing
sickness-at this late stage! Everyone blames
Hoboken's leaching bricks. Laying kerchiefs
on her blanketed feet. He feels such shame
for when he found her nervous chatter hard
to bear, and told his wife so. He pities
her now. But what does he know? Of the ex
he'd always considered a prisoner
of conscience, somehow. The poet nurses
such disdain for every editor who
refused her. Who couldn't be bothered to
even reply. Though she'd been no worse off
than everyone. When his wife calls and says,
She's gone, the poet composes: The day
isn't even half done.

The Poet's Wife Dreams

In her casket she remains a patient
young woman, hands laced like contemplation,
fluids bruising her wrists. Her lips a seam
sewn crudely. Pursed, emptied first. In the dream
my wife's lively hands, darts which resemble
her mother's fine clay, as mine assemble
poems like my father turned screws, are turning
on the lamps in her childhood home, burning
grief out of the evening like a lover
prepares the scene. Only to discover
our friend here. Unstitching her mouth to cry,
You're not supposed to see me yet. She hides
behind the light. So when my wife lifts her
like a newborn to her breast to whisper
of our longing, she finds she's embracing
only herself, this wall she's facing.

Photo credit: Barney Couch

Dan O'Brien is a poet and playwright. New Life, his third poetry collection and his second about Pulitzer Prize-winning war reporter Paul Watson, is newly published by CB Editions in London. His play about Watson, The Body of an American, will run off-Broadway with Primary Stages at the Cherry Lane Theatre in 2016. O'Brien is a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow in Drama & Performance Art. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, actor and writer Jessica St. Clair, and their daughter Isobel.

next: a poem by Emily Schulten
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