Three Poems by Dan O’Brien

From the Collection Our Cancers

September 17, 2021  By Dan O'Brien


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Waking up

to a kitchen
like the inside
of a lantern

with the babe
a flickering
babble when

you pause
at the running
faucet to ask Love

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can you feel
my breast O
no O no

is all
I can say

the spark



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Another morning
sirens roused us
to the specter

of a businessman
static with ash
He was confused

where he was
On Water Street
we craned our necks

receipts cascading
the exponential rose
blooming through

the second tower
An old woman fell
to her knees O

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no O no How
your tears then
scattered the road

out of the blast
breathing our choking
malediction lost

in the crush of
the multitudes
reborn from dust

Thank you
for crying
for us


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We drove into
the deepening

to the bar
of an inn where
I confessed

you confessed
tabletop votives
around us like prayer

then took you home
and could have
let you go

into black trees
blue snow pale moon
but followed

and turned you
around with
my voice Then

kissing in the brisk
capsule of the car
idling beside

loose farmyard walls
snowflakes occluding
breath-blearing glass

Then serpentine
the mountainside
slicing swish around

harrowing switchbacks
along a river
unfrozen within

Then climbing
indiscreet stairs
to the tall arc

of your spine
in the old bed
in the old house

as the cinders
nestled in the
cast-iron stove

wind gasping
in the rafters
In the morning

you opened
your eyes to the
bright cold room

with your wild
wide smile that asks
What’s next This

early morning
eyes closing
you’re whirled

away from me
into another
bright cold room where

they will excise
the ember of
your disease

You are going
where I fear I
cannot follow


From Dan O’Brien’s Our Cancers, courtesy Acre Books. Copyright 2021, Dan O’Brien.

Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brien
Dan O’Brien is an internationally produced and published playwright and poet whose recognition includes a Guggenheim Fellowship in Drama, the Horton Foote Prize, the Edward M. Kennedy Prize, two PEN America Awards, and the Fenton Aldeburgh Prize. His fourth poetry collection, Our Cancers, is available from Acre Books (University of Cincinnati Press), and a collection of his essays on playwriting, A Story That Happens,is out now from CB Editions in London.

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