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The 2River View 15.3 (Spring 2011)

Dan O'Brien

The Firecracker

was just waiting
for me, water
-logged and fractured
beside a box
of matches on
the windowsill
that looked out on
our suddenly
profuse backyard;
in the house where
nobody spoke,
with a mother
that could never
shut up: I slid

open the slim
box, fingered out
a wooden stick
and struck the head
then passed the wet
wick through until
that mute wick flared
to life. And popped
beneath my hand
as the glass thread
slipped in between
my ears. I ran

outside, Mother
behind me, How
could you do this
to us? How could

I answer when
I couldn't hear
a word she said


The Worm

Alone in the boat
with you, rowing out
into the lake. Take
the Styrofoam cup
and with my fingers
dig through the fecal
loam. For night crawlers.
Blood suckers. His cold
striated, mucoid
skin, pink bulbous band
like a prepuce. You
show me how to hold
the naked tangling
thread, then push the barbed
hook through. Once, then twice
till my bait's a balled
crucifix of dirt.
Don't be a faggot,
you say as you cast
your line out. I drop
the live worm between
my bare knees, puncture
his middle, watch his
tail flipping blind. Ooze
spotting the wood grain
green. Then casting out
my loose loop, I see
the innocent worm
disappear beneath
that rhythmic lozenge
of sunlight. Such grace
when the hook comes back
clean. One time I left
the worms on their hooks
and smiled when I saw
you searching our house
for the source of all
that smell of death.

Dan O'Brien, a former Hodder Fellow at Princeton University, will be a 2011 resident at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center in Bellagio, Italy. His poems have appeared in 32 Poems, Alaska Quarterly Review, Greensboro Review, Margie, New South, Nimrod, storySouth, and elsewhere. (contactwebsite)