Five poems by Dan O’Brien


I find myself
In a strange city

I imagine
I have found
My new home

And must find
A way
To live here


My life shrinks
I will share
All with you


This girl snagged
The handsomer twin
You once coveted

They are living
Now in Paris
Where she suffers

A treatment nearly
To your own

Do you recall
That evening when
After dinner

She flashed
Her frying pan

We request
Its lustrous twin
As a wedding gift

I marveled at
The steel already
Turning black


Or not

Teachers asked
Are you ill

Sent me home
The bell

Pale because
I could not eat
What she cooked

Or there wasn’t
To go round

Was I merely
Telling the truth
One night when

Mother and Father
Brought a sweet
To me

My loving

One Hundred and Nineteen

This was the year
That was not
A year

The winter
Off fear

The spring
Few flowers

That long summer
Walking on

Old legs
Or walking not
At all

The fall
I do not know
Will come

The fall
My child leaves
For school

I wish
For time
To pass

Or not
To pass
At all

Author’s note: This is an extract from a chronicle in poems of the year and a half when, not yet middle aged, my wife and I found ourselves both diagnosed with cancer. Bedside in the hospital, in a hospital bed myself, in the extremities and purgatories of our treatments, these poems were written with the force of tears—of joy, fear, gratitude, dread, sorrow, hope. Publication credits: “One” — Hanging Loose; “Twenty-Four” — The Rialto; “Forty-Eight” — Sugar House Review; “Eighty-Two” — The Interpreter’s House; “One Hundred and Nineteen” — Birmingham Poetry Review.

Originally from New York, Dan O’Brien is a poet and playwright living in Los Angeles. His three poetry collections, published by CB Editions in the UK and Hanging Loose Press in the US, are War Reporter, winner of the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and shortlisted for the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection; Scarsdale, and New Life. He is a recent Guggenheim Fellow in Drama. Dan O’Brien: Plays One is newly published by Oberon Books in London.