by Sally O’Brien
Short days. The dark settles on me like a
blanket kept in a damp garage. Every day,
I swear I wake up later and later.
Tuesday the dawn was a gilt cathedral ceiling.
Wednesday there was less of it, bands of
purple and yellow dissolving like a bruise.
In the store the lights whine and the vents throb.
The last few cases of clementines were no good;
they’re piled in corners, their bright cheeks collapsing.
Every morning, before we open, I bake trays of
sugar cookies and wrap each one in plastic.
On every one I hurry through your name.
By the time I am done I have wrapped you up
in film seven or eight dozen times over—as if
you’re not the stone in my shoe, the stubborn
cowlick, the candle burning unattended. I say
O come, O come, and in the same tone, Forty-one
cents is your change and here’s your receipt.
Thursday just the horizon lit up, angry pink
like a scar, and then Friday there was nothing,
the tender wound all bound in cloudy rags.
Yesterday the sky was flat as the salted road.
Late to work again, I saw the red dawn
spill across it, spreading like blood in water.
Sally O’Brien has degree from Swarthmore College in Greek and Latin, but now consider herself a mostly-lapsed classicist. After a few years bouncing around the nonprofit sector, she now makes her living as a public high school English teacher in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, which is about equal parts helping young people access the transcendent power of language and asking them to please put their Flamin’ Hot Cheetos away. She lives with her husband, young son, and nephew in the shadow of the Market-Frankford El. Her work has previously appeared in Apiary Magazine and Rattle’s Poets Respond.