:: Article

Two Poems

By Timothy O’Donnell.

the architect’s hungry children

In times after the war the architect
could find no work to be done. All had been
razed in mortar fire, brick melted, glass
disintegrated, as too did our flesh.

Soya, my sister became as glass was
and shattered under angry clouds that spit
fire, rained iron, poured hot lead, blood collected
as rain would in the cracks of the concrete.

My father – the town architect – could not
bury pale Soya, her legs found down the
street from her torso – sundress, doll in hand –
not Soya but a broken pane of glass.

Without bricks to build, bread was lost on us
the architect’s hungry children were we
though with one less mouth that missed the taste of
bread, we carried on, collecting rubble.

Homes, we found, were only rocks our father
Glued together; Windows were only glass
Between the rocks. We hungry children found
rocks, and stacked them high as loaves of warm bread.

Because rocks could be made into bread we
Fed ourselves by selling rocks to homeless
Men who fashioned houses of broken earth
While our father cried for Soya, we worked.

Days without razors made forests of him,
His face obscured by greying clouds. We made
To bathe and feed him, but we could not work
The razor. He was not father but ghost.

As Soya, as Russia: a former self.
We designed new homes, new libraries, new
Schools for the children not dead. Father slept
And we brought home the bread. He wasn’t there.

To Hai Zi

born Zha Haisheng
tending foxtail millet
with a poet’s tender touch
among the wheat in May,
September to Peking,
to Beijing, to Qinhuangdao
to Shanhaiguan
crimson rails to yellow sun, the Party’s palette
We will resolutely uphold whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made, and unswervingly follow whatever instructions Chairman Mao gave.
26th of March
your anniversary
in and out,
air moves your black moustache
a millimeter, a micrometer, not at all
a belly full of breath
a train full of passengers
each their own belly full of breath,
a snake of flesh
crawling on its bowed steel belly along
two iron spines
between which you lay
monochromatic China, grey China, lifeless ash-caked China
spill the Party’s red, the red raised on flagpoles
and draped in city squares,
bring your poet’s palette to the grey train
Red passengers, Yellowed teeth, grey drained faces
your static practice
a handful of smooth gravel
each an oblong life
without the policies, the instructions
without the bars, without the bricks
without the larger stones
let it always be the smallest stones that hold you in!
the trepidation of the ground
you are a poet’s peaceful stance
to the night
a Bible, Walden, Heyerdahl,
selections from Conrad

when the vultures fall like Himalayan hail
to consume, as Tibetan rite commands,
they will be well read

You deserve a hero’s burial
in swim trunks with shaggy mane
a saucer of warm butter tea
your body dissected along the railroad lines
tar black,
you will be unrailroaded, uncrushed,
you will write
what’s left
Jesus, Lazarus,
“Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all!”
And then,
the poet will be cut again
the farmer will run
nimble fingers
across heavenly millet
among the wheat in May


Timothy O’Donnell is an author living in Hawthorne, NJ. He is currently writing fiction and poetry as an M.F.A. student at William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, September 30th, 2011.