By Dion O’Reilly
Feature image: Hope, 1886 by George Frederic Watts and assistants
means whistle. A Spanish word
that sounds like silver
in the air, a little bird’s song
Oh My Dear. Oh My Dear.
Every year, the first time I hear
that smooth silbato,
it’s the first day of fall, a sparrow
with a small stripe lining its eye,
with the dying days
when the golden apple’s skin
feels softer than in summer,
a little more honey.
Oh My Dear. Little girl,
this is how it begins—
school, getting up early, not knowing
what you’re in for,
what your friends will do to you,
what you’ll do to them,
what being one year older
will mean in the world
of a girl. What to fear
and what to hope for.
Walk into the side of a mountain—
some cave of limestone and chert.
As the sparrow sings,
light a fire. It’s cold outside.
Let the flame flick the ceiling
with the ghosts of wild gazelles,
grab some coal, some ochre
the color of crusty blood,
and a rabbit’s thigh bones to trace them—
stickmen running with laughing legs,
spears carried high above their heads.
See who walks out
alive in spring.
Dion O’Reilly’s debut book, Ghost Dogs, was published in February 2020 by Terrapin Books. Her poems appear in Cincinnati Review, Poetry Daily, Narrative, The Massachusetts Review, New Letters, Journal of American Poetry, Rattle, The Sun, and other literary journals and anthologies. She is a member of The Hive Poetry Collective, which produces podcasts and radio shows, and she leads online workshops with poets from all over the United States and Canada.
Feature image: Imaged released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported), Photo © Tate.