Dion O’Reilly: Three Poems
Selected by Alexis Rhone Fancher, Poetry Editor
Why Did I Call My Pig?
I watched my mother call her,
watched my sister too.
My father tried to catch her.
She was quick, my piebald oinker.
Her squeals greased the air.
She knew the jig was up,
ran to the farthest corner, down
by the creek and the steep ravine,
hid in shadows under oak trees,
rooting prickled leaves and acorns
with her wet ringed snout.
My huge baby, companion
on aimless teenage days
when I balanced on the fencepost,
listening to her belly-deep rumble,
stick-scratched her itchy,
The butcher with a rifle,
stood impatient by his Chevy truck,
its hook and chain ready
to haul the limp sow up,
to scrape the skin and slice the stomach
in a thin red line, bowels spilling
glazy as moonstones.
Forgive me. To show off my small power,
I called her—the one she loved—
and she came running.
I glimpsed him leaving Trader Joe’s,
loading his disposable brown bag of stuff
into his wax-buffed Jag. My ex—
his face dehydrated now,
in the way of those old-timey applehead dolls.
This was the guy
to whom I cried as we did it—Take me
any way you want me. So loud an exaltation
that it carried for acres—
into the neighborhood chapel,
where it shivered the sainted windows.
All the way into abandoned apartments,
awakening tweakers with their smoky pipes.
Into the fragrance of espresso bars
serving absinthe and squirts of whiskey syrup,
the pierced baristas pausing
as they plunged the steamer rod
into the teased-up milk.
That’s how it is when you’re a woman
in your prime. You vocalize.
Especially after all the years I spent
with a man who walked out
the bedroom door while I waited
in bra and panties, posing to show
the curve of my waist, the peach
lace of my Victoria’s Secret—
my jars of vulva balm going rancid
on the bedside table.
After my great plague of nothing, the first
to uncork the fine champagne
of my lust. There he was again,
his blotched arms heaving
Friskies cat food
onto the smooth leather of his backseat.
Publish your best work, find a decent job.
Eat some sizzling octopus, the many
kissing tentacles meaty on your tongue.
Success, you think, Joy! For a while anyway,
then it’s another mess in the papers, the endless
scroll of rapists and dead turtles, another
photo of a world leader with his corn-baked face.
So you go on a car trip north to find
some good rain. You get to Seattle,
and the lawns are scab-brown,
your old home on the lake—a lime-green high rise.
Always looking for something.
Answer keys. Antidepressants.
More friends, another dog, another slim poetry book
where the poet keeps pushing and pushing,
line after line of exquisite description, one astonished
metaphor after another, escalating into an ecstatic revelation.
You can’t write like that.
You don’t read enough Virgil and Milton, don’t start
your day writing lines of iambic pentameter.
Detroit, Detroit, Detroit, Detroit, Detroit.
And you can’t meditate like some of the big names do.
When you sit, it feels like termites streaming in and out
of your arteries. On the screen of your inner vision,
all your arrogance, ecstasy, and gloom.
Your crappy conversations with the bitches in Zumba Gold
telling you to irrigate your nostrils, get therapy,
put a prong collar on your mutt.
But admit it—sometimes in fall, you look up and see
an arrowhead of duck flight, lonesome and luxurious.
If only you could understand
how fungus flowers from the mind of the land,
how fractal arms of trees shard the sky.
If only you could exalt
in ash falling, the West on fire,
it would be like you’d just arrived on earth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dion O’Reilly’s first book, Ghost Dogs, was published in February 2020 by Terrapin Books. Her poems and essays appear in Narrative, The Massachusetts Review, New Letters, Sugar House Review, New Ohio Review, Rattle, The Sun, Catamaran, Grist, Tupelo Quarterly and other literary journals and anthologies. She teaches poetry workshops in a house full of wild art situated in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and she is a member of The Hive Poetry Collective which produces poetry podcasts available on Spotify, iTunes, and anywhere you download your podcasts.