Five Poems

Budget Day in the Dauphin Room

On Groundhog Day—the birthday of James Joyce—
We squabbled  over money at the Holiday Inn
In Harrisburg.
                           How much is a poet worth?
To find a fee commensurate with energy
Spent in high schools of the Commonwealth
And pacify the overseers of the Arts.
Rain all day and paralyzing ice-storms
Threatening.
                         How much to raise the new Jerusalem?
Unanswered.
                          Drained, we drank to Joyce and left.
As darkness claimed the capital I crawled
Down to Penn Central's shabby depot in the wet.
My train crept in an hour late. I heard
Punxsutawney's resident poet had better luck
Not seeing his own shadow, he slept under muck.

 

Academic

Piranha, we'll name him, Poet in Residence,
Laureate of all flesh eaters extant for sheer
Voraciousness, fished out of his element and kind;
Kept for the delight of seeing savagely fed
In this glass academe, where we seek to duplicate
Anything but the world of his wild habitat.
We toss him small fry, prime chunks of raw meat
And occasionally for fun slip in a live rat
Just to watch his jaws go—presto!—skeleton.
His eloquence is all one savage dumb show
As he darts at our fingers behind his bright glass;
We keep him for laughs, but we may buy another,
Bigger and hungrier—a quick shudder of water
And he's tenured for good, in the gut of his brother.

 

Sombra

Pampero was not happy to be back
From the fire, feeling heavy and black;
He had walked too far in that light
To accept the fierce estrangement of sight

Again: the landscape defined in the window
In the long afternoon: the positive print
He could never quite annul with his flesh
Prowling the hills each day, spectral, alone.

He blamed it all on the eagle, or whatever
Huge bird it was that suddenly hung—blowing over
Him, scaring him off from the peak
He was trying to reach, the ice air burning his lungs.

The delirium from breathing too deep,
The shadow of fire he made sitting there
By the window fiercely lit with earth light:
Pampero sunk dark into the shape of the chair.

 

Curb Service

Parking meters in black hoods,
Headlights on the cortege waits;
Sitting in his polished hearse
The undertaker strictly shaved
Glances at his watch and waits.

Shiny box comes bouncing out,
Tilting dangerously down stone steps;
Attendants dancing, shifting weight,
Steady to funereal poise:
Slide it in with perfect ease.

The undertaker sighs and turns the key.

 

Perils of Conservation

"We find them broken, bleeding on the sand,"
The girl sighed, scooping up sea turtle eggs
Like so many golf balls from the pit
She'd dug up with her bare hands, moving back
The turtle nest from the encroaching tide.
"The foxes come at night and dig them up.
What can we do?" She turned her scarlet face,
"The foxes are endangered species too."

 

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About Richard O'Connell

Richard O'Connell lives in Hillsboro Beach, Florida. He is the editor and publisher of Atlantis Editions. Collections of his poetry include RetroWorlds, Simulations, Voyages, and The Bright Tower, all published by the University of Salzburg Press (now Poetry Salzburg). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, The Texas Review, Measure, Margie, The Formalist, Light, etc. His most recent collections are Waiting for the Terrorists and Dawn Crossing.