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Kathy O´Fallon

Listening to Tchaikovsky

 

All at once you feel afraid,

recall those nights as a child

when the coast was clear

and your mother could

set up the music stand,

turn on the phonograph,

violin twinned to her neck,

accompany Romeo and Juliet.

           

She wasn’t your mother anymore,

red curls pummeling flushed cheeks,

fingers picking at gut, bow impatient,

stabbing the carcass again and again,

passion rising glorious up the stairs.   

You could not sleep for the sound

—two lovers on fire—

 

like nothing your father could match,

the man two-timing late with the band--

trumpet lips playing other necks,

            but that was commonplace.

 

You must keep listening,      

but you know what will happen next

if you follow the heat of its mood:

 

            every piece of advice

            about careful choices will fly out the window,

            your mother’s wagging finger a memory in flames,

           

and then, music!

Dinner Time

 

I’m in the Mood for Love

crooning from the hi-fi in the den

 

mother sipping a whiskey sour

while she broils a piece of meat

 

my father back from New York

tie hanging limp around his neck

 

how long can the melody last

until their next argument

 

the trick: to sit at the table

swallow the gristle and savor the juice

 

Neighbor Boy

 

I promised not to tell

how he opened the screen door

let in a couple of mosquitoes

whistled from the kitchen up the back stairs

a neighbor on an errand,

stole me out the way he came in

steered me onto a back woods trail

where I’d caught salamanders before

 

how my pinafore caught on a briar branch

the sound of the tear conspicuous

on a quiet afternoon

 

how his hands, wider than my hips

circled my waist

(could he have choked me there?)

 

how his eyes made me comprehend

the demand

 

how he got right down to business

              his zipper another rip              

                          and then my own flesh

                                         tougher to separate

Childhood Call

 

Who sent those owls hidden

in the branches after midnight,

the ones with the singular mantra—

who, but who   are you—

that cared enough to wonder?

 

Branches of birch

rapped against clapboard,

weighed down by winter.

What brave thing could perch

on something so unstable?

 

The door to my bedroom

creaked open sometime later.

Nothing recognizable in darkness

but wool, heavy, smothering.

 

I floated to the ceiling

until the phantom finished,

call from the window beseeching:

Who, and who are you?

Kathy O’Fallon’s award-winning poetry and fiction have appeared in over two dozen national and regional literary journals, magazines, and anthologies.  She has three poetry collections.  A clinical psychologist practicing in Fallbrook and Redlands, California, the oldest of eight, mother of two, and grandmother of three, O’Fallon doesn’t lack for material.