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Waving Tassels

Plan to Free 

The dog ate the turkey. Then killed all the village swans, piled the white corpses at the front door, impossible to hide, a pyre to be paid for with exile. In the orange school bus, every morning and afternoon, no matter the snow or dust, we’d lower the windows and hang out from the waist yelling across the rutabaga fields and hail our dog chained to a tractor tire.  We conspired to pedal under star-cover with chain-cutters and hairpins to pick locks and unleash dreams. We planned escape routes down beaver creeks, flow-following to great lake mouth, over the falls, to sea salt. We’d be Vikings Conquistadors Voyagers Braves; the first to find the strait. We’d live off seal pelt and whale blubber and albatross breast. We’d suck octopus tentacles to keep scurvy at bay. We’d breed a whole continent of dogs, horse islands, cat jungles, pig mountains. In winter,  we’d burn the news for warmth,  asking for nothing,  saying nothing to adults, which we’d never become, a fate equivalent to death. Our arms would turn legs. Our snouts would grow long. Fingers to paw. Our ears would hear everything.  

Abandoned Wheels 

I machete the avocado. The blade divides the pit ball. Green meat spreads open. Two thighs. The average avocado tree takes fifteen years to produce fruit. The oldest, still growing wild in Mexico, is over four hundred years. With the same blade, I open a coconut’s fontanelle, miss my mouth with the milk. Peeling a mango, I decapitate a thumb, mixing blood, juice, and barefootcrushed papaya seeds, we sup till rescue, which came far too early. Brother, we grew apart.

The night heat dripped sweaty our eyes. Skin dried to salt- leather. Hide. Jerky. Actually saw sparks when we talked.  In 1934, 804 men and 140 women leapt into the same volcanic atoll crater near Japan. I can’t even spell your name in the sand anymore, the last to grasp continental drift. Drift is not at fault. Whittle stick to be still, a testament, final will. As fast as a bucket dropped into a poisoned well banana plants sprout where you once stepped. Green jackfruit dangle just beyond reach. Unfinished horizon pray for us. Our Lady of Lack of Decision open the confessional, I’m ready to accept Last Rites. Please administer.  

A sacrament, a decade, a loyalty card, would we return if we could? Is there anywhere around here to buy a bottle of belief? The attention we draw—Look! There’s a port. Just in time, the clouds are darkening. Is that a daylight star falling? Is the harbourmaster really twirling his mustache? Denying entry. Let’s trade him fruit for stamps. Let’s learn the native slang before the shore. Can I put my head on your shoulder? No touching. Our pit deviates toward germination. Our seeds grow wings. 

Fly bitches fly. Come closer, go away, let me watch.  


You can’t force these things. For the first two years after my brother’s death, I could only remember the teasings, headlocks, and beatings. He was always trying to teach me to be tough. You have no respect. You have a  soft head;  he’d say between thumps.  Now,  approaching three years, I’m cooking a puttanesca, which to means to me every bitching thing left in the house into the pot: canned corn, sliced cucumber, diced onion, crushed garlic, melted cheese rinds, jarred tomatoes, salt, black pepper, cayenne, soy sauce, lemon juice, dried basil flecks, and two old yolks cracked raw.  

I’m wearing a  clean white wife-beater which we never wore back then.  It would have been called an under-vest or something else unrelated to domestic violence.  His hand-me-downs were always collared or buttoned or too big. I pour myself some port and add three fingers of tonic and sit on a stone outside the front door in the sun waiting for the gunk to congeal on the spaghetti fused linguini—mixed girth, same shape, different cooking times—who cares about time? We never cooked together, rarely ate together except when forced. When he drove, I couldn’t touch the radio or speak and suddenly unawares, I don’t know if it’s a memory or a presence or sensation, but I chuckle aloud about taking my white shirt off and eating bare-chested, so the sauce doesn’t stain. 

I don’t remember if he did it or said it or we did it together or maybe a friend said or did it and we laughed or we saw it on television together we did watch loads of shows together for years. We were latch-key kids with no keys because there was no need to lock doors.  He forced me to excellence at sports and to be unafraid of anything except fear itself.  Taught me to fight so  I  never had to. Anyway, I’m tough and respectful and eating shirtless hoping to splatter blood-coloured sauce on my skin.   

The Anatomy of Stalk

I’m trying not to use trauma as currency. How many duty-free purchases have proved shitty gifts? When I stood by your casket and saw the make-up, I wanted to strangle the artist. Kaufman & Sons, the undertakers who we’d known all our lives, played football with, crashed snowmobiles with, tapped maple trees for syrup with, asked what I thought. You were not your body. That body—appeared three times your age in a bad suit, cranberry-juice lipped, cheeks parchment yellow, not a sunset over the frozen lake, eyeliner from hell. 

Hell, I said, good job. Thanks for the rebate on the box, too. Earthworms don’t know mahogany from oak or plywood. My face squeezed to grape, arms involuntary punched the back porch door, off-hinge swung, cigarette already lit, I said nothing to the cornfield. The gravel road responded with tires. The guests are coming to pay their respect. Fat faces and old names. Some auras unchanged, just as we left them, some unrecognisable, some some some. I stood beside my father and pretended to be strong, healthy, good. Handshakes, hugs, back pats, tears, even belly laughter. 

Stormin Norman, the skinny lawless linebacker, reeking of rye and tobacco put me in a headlock, your brother, took me under his wing, got me laid once, no one liked me then, no one likes me now, except him. He changed my life and now that ain’t him. I just heard this morning, got released yesterday, drove all the way down from fucking Tobermory. Fuck me, that ain’t him, in that box, that ain’t him, that’s just a body, your brother was a god. 

From the parlour window, see Norman pull donuts on Kaufman’s gravel, blasting his Camaro horn, an empty bottle out window tossed into the waving tassels, silk, ear, kernel, sheath, blade, root, tiller, seed, engine gunned over the low hill into the forever night. Another slender attachment recedes into the distance.

Currently based in Portugal, DM O’Connor is an Irish-Canadian. He has an MFA from University College Dublin & the University of New Mexico. He is a contributing reviewer for Rhino Poetry and fiction editor at Bending Genres. His work has appeared in Splonk, A New Ulster, Dodging the Rain, Cormorant, Crannog, Opossum, The New Quarterly, The Guardian, the Irish Independent among others.

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