Issue #10 June 2019
Detail from Thirty-third (The View Is So Very Nice) by Tim Frisch

Deirdre O’Connor

Ode to An Afternoon

It began with a woman, her heavy arms, and a small girl
holding a jar of kidney stones toward the light. A single acidic light
illuminating the scene. It began in shadowy outer rooms, the smell
of cigarettes mixing with sauerkraut, and chlordane from the cellar stairs
rising like the invisible dead. It was unknowingly toxic.
There was an expectation of rain, how it would sound on the roof.
With tender gestures, it began, like offering the child a sip of a drink,
smoothing the hair around her ear. It was familial and developed slowly,
like a disease. It entailed a nap, the press of white chenille
against a cheek, dreams in which nothing troubled the dreamer’s brow
then suddenly, inexorably furrowed it. Something had to be removed,
and something saved. It allowed water to fall in separate streams
on two pairs of hands, and, doing its job, it dissolved
like a sandpaper-rough, old-fashioned bar of soap.


You were dying again, this time elegantly
smoking a cigarette.

You’d lift your hand to your mouth then rest
your wrist on a hip beneath

the hospital’s white chenille. Smoke
issued from your lips, drifted past

the window’s mirror, and entered the grandeur
of bridges over black rivers

streaked with light. The ruined mills, invisible
houses crowding hillsides,

seeds brought back from Italy buried deep
in terraced gardens,

even the bus exhaust that rose and subsumed
your personal smoke—everything

seemed to be sucking you into a myth
about being carried across,

though you stayed stroking the hair of the man
who needed your forgiveness

while lifting the other hand you had
to your lips.

The Final Scene

That I can stare at floorboards and listen

to jazz while trying to fathom your body

now in the earth only goes to show

I have enough serotonin or dopamine

to resist throwing open the door

my mind would lock if it could. You

in your good wool navy dress and pearls,

the amethyst rosary arranged

just so. Yellowpale hands, the irremovable

ring from Paris, your knuckle damaged

from years of irrigating a single

wound. Deformity most devoted,

nurse’s wound, finger bone

of a saint. When is synecdoche

true enough? We buried you whole.

I can’t not loiter at the final scene, however

it improvises over your life.