Poem #2: Prose poetry chain

Thomas O'Connell


Only horses and children run solely for the sake of running. I hear sirens, sirens all night long. Children splash each other in the puddles left behind. I watch them from my fire escape drinking Chianti; red wine and rain. A woman upstairs sings along with a radio propped on her windowsill. I do not know the song.

Nobody hands out calendars anymore. Not oil companies, gas stations, nor insurance agents. The Hunan Garden gave them out two years ago. One hangs on my wall, stuck on December. There is a dragon beneath the words. There are pencil lines on the doorjamb, three-quarter-inch increments marking off some child's growth. They stop abruptly, about level with my belt buckle. I put my back against the frame, leveling a pencil on top of my head, marking a line. There is quite a gap. Viewing it this way, it makes you wonder what took place in the time between.

I live just beyond the bus stop. Drunks are always pounding on my front door in the middle of the night, claiming to have forgotten their house key. They do not believe me when I tell them that they are lost and send them away, though I sound nothing like their wife. I live right next door to the pawnshop. I am always finding clarinets on my front stoop and cigarette butts in my flower boxes.

On the corner, everyone is named Henry, though some of them prefer to be called Hank. Their mothers did not become nuns. There are yellowed newspapers stacked inside a cardboard box. They revere them as folk tales, twisting them into branches and laying them on the fire. The wine is as thick as fog; it makes some of the girls squeamish. One girl keeps biting off chunks from a raspberry licorice rope. Her name is not Henry, nor is she a Hank.

The other night there were three deer wandering down the center of High Street. Perhaps it is some ancient trace. The deer didn't seem to mind the storefronts, duplexes and brownstones lining their path. Between Washington and State, there is a frat house and upon seeing the deer, some of the lingering scholars decided to retrieve their archery set from above the mantle. They missed the deer, lodging an arrow, instead, into their neighbors' recycling bin.

Out at the fairgrounds the day after the carnival closed, a miniature town remains defined by the roads worn into the grass from the wanderings of the fair goers. The parking lot in the adjacent field is still roped off by yellow cord, but no stickman remains as guide. The rides and booths are packed away, loaded onto trucks and heading towards the next town. Portable latrines are scattered around the fairgrounds, like aqua telephone booths, waiting for a flat bed truck to collect them.

Read poem #3

Thomas O'Connell

Thomas O'Connell is a librarian living in the mountains of southwestern Virginia with his wife and a couple of swell daughters. His poems and stories have appeared in Tarpaulin Sky, Cranky, Sleepingfish, as well as other print and online journals.