Appearing in Ghost Town Review, Issue #10 (Summer 2018): 



I learned to lie from my father

the day all the Italians in the neighborhood

parked in front of our house,

leaned on Buicks and Caddies,

gold chains long as rosaries against white T-shirts

and three of them in immaculate black suits

rang fists on the frame of our aluminum screen door.


I’m so close to my father’s leg I could hug it

but don’t, because I shouldn’t.


“You threw a brick at my son’s car!”

the center man on our stoop shouted.


“No, I didn’t.  Who are you?”

Denial, dead-pan anger, attack, the blueprint,

but I saw my father the night before

in his underwear and crucifix

hurling a red brick towards

the teenager’s muffler-less hotrod

drag racing dream stars,

saw the car swerve and steady itself, half-blind,

even before the incredulous:

“You could have killed him!

We live across the street!

You were in your boxer shorts!”


“Get off my property right now,”

my father spoketh

with teeth-tight punctuation,

improvising his part in the unfolding

morality play.


One evening the following week like

thunderclaps after lightening

all the windows in our cars –

two Fords and a Rambler –

were smashed with lead pipes and baseball bats

and my Dad snapped

out of sitcom and Guinness repose,

ran out of the house

and gave chase to a six-headed sedan,

flooring his Galaxy 500,


sitting on broken glass

in his boxer shorts.





Everything means nothing or too much.

The exclamation mark is obsolete!

And so on and so on and such and such.


Mood swings! Dance swings! Going dutch,

swaying between murder and kissing feet.

Everything means nothing or too, too much.


Broken vows! Pretty eyes! The failing clutch

will cost 600 bucks to replace. A dead parakeet!

And so on and so on and such and such.


Lust and fear, kiss here but don’t touch

there yet. God is alive. And the gamete!

Everything means nothing or way too much.


Secrets in the closet, flashlight in the hutch,

calculating life choices on a balance sheet.

And so on and so on and such and such.


If the house burns down, we’ll still eat lunch

later in the smoldering ash and heat.

Everything means nothing or too much.

And so on and so on and such and such. 


The police horse knows

it is a police horse

and stomps a hoof five times

to say “you’re under arrest” 

to the Captain that rides him.

It’s a little joke between them 

that only the horse understands.

© Dan O’Connell 2015

published in: Big Bell Magazine, Issue #9, 2016, ed. Russell Dillon

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