Rayne O’Brian


What you’re next to matters
Next to a river, pretty soon you talk river
Next to a gun, pretty soon you shoot

Jail should never be close to bird
Jailbird—barred from the sky
The alphabet ashamed

But what if you’re born 
next to a Love Goddess 
who sings you into being 

Rubs rose oil over 
your mama’s belly
lays her soft cheek down
listens for your heartbeat
blesses that spot with five kisses?

Today, she says, Dawn 
hangs her rosy drapes for you
foxes memorize your name

Would it be different?
Would we be kind?

Stay close to ferns, frogs, finches 
faltering humans
love them until 
you are next to 


How do you even say it?   
Is it a planet or something?
Apterous (adj): having no wings 

I apprentice myself to Shakespeare
and Schubert, to Blake and Bernini,
as I write on delicate chairs at street cafés 
drinking midnight’s coffee.

O heavy humans, there is another way.
—be light as the hollow-boned bird
hitch a ride on the wind’s long silk sleeves.  

Be beloved of the air!

But here’s the thing:
Today’s another day without wings.
I’d sweep my arms on white sheets 
the way children leave angels in snow. 
I used to ask my mother to rub my 
shoulders with rose oil. I did not
tell her why.

How shall I fare in the air? Help
Dawn choose a dress to delight the sky,
deliver hot dogs and harmonicas 
to the children weeping in tents.

It’s late.
I must discard all non-winged elements.

I must enter the legend: 

On the shadow side of the mountain,
there’s a cave with a hearth full of stars 
where a man in a leather apron 
fits poets with wings...

I will find him.

Rayne O’Brian’s poems have been published in Nine Mile Magazine. Her poetry collection Living on a Song a Day was published by Blue Light Press, and her short story “Everlast” was published in Prime Number Magazine.

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