Parrot sounds. His room was full of them,
great cages. Mirrors, photographs, and Lou
so little in his clothes. I could be there.
He said, Tuberculosis of the blood.
There’s power. Somebody has to open
their big mouth, he said, and did. So, history.
A slight man getting slighter: there is power.
A working, wrecking power—he sat to answer
the worst questions, and wasn’t so good at it,
but he held up. It held him, killed him. Lou,
I’m scared, I’m waiting. The crimson macac sings:
Would you be free from your burden? Take it in.
There’s power in the blood. I fear I’m down
now by the railyard. Sound of the brakes like bells.
There’s a wound in me, wound up in me, expert
like a corkscrew unscrewed. And the cork is kept.
Press a palm over it—help, there’s a wound in me—
no, three. No, more. No, here is a ship at sea
and she sinks. She was the enemy. So the borer—
the boy with his brace & auger—he swims over
to the Golden Vanity. Entreaty. Captains,
can’t trust them far from land. And so he ends—
the boy—I’m drifting with the tide. They stitch
him in his hammock—it was so fair and wide.
How many holes got the enemy? How many
left to plug, crew bailing, boys tiring in the tide?
Fight’s over, brace & auger. Wrap me in my salt sheet.
What deserves disease will get it, or has already.
Liam O’Brien grew up on a small island outside Seattle. In 2012, he graduated from Sarah Lawrence College, where he received the Stanley and Evelyn Lipkin Prize for Poetry and the Nancy Lynn Schwartz Prize for Fiction. His work can be found in print in Unsaid Magazine, and online at The Offending Adam, Blackbird VCU, Buffalo Almanack, and Industrial Lunch. He is currently pursuing his MFA at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and is one of the editors of Vetch: A Magazine of Trans Poetry and Poetics.
“Salt Sheet” appeared on PBS Newshour Poetry. “L. Sullivan” is not previously published.