Poems by Dion O'Reilly

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Rivervale

by Dion O'Reilly

From Canary Fall 2017

Dion lives in the Soquel Creek watershed on a stream-cut terrace covered with a thin mantle of alluvium on a ten-acre triangular plot between Soquel Creek and its tributary, Love Creek.

We slammed doors. We set out shoeless on trails of powdery sand,
turned a corner to the river, smelled pockets of cool air rank
with black mud. Maple trees leaned in, dropped leaves that rested
like bruised hands on the skin of the water, then floated away
around the high rocks at the bend. None of our mother’s bitched-out
tasks, no sudden hands of brothers slapped away. No pimped-out
sisters or fatherless boys. No pirate-eyed stepfathers drunk
in La-Z-Boys. Gone was the stench of spilled beer and rat turds.
We learned downstream. We learned leaving. We learned someday.

Herons lifted their great bodies from the sandy streambed, shining
fish caught in their tapered beaks and the agony
twisting in the air made sense. We looked to the world
beneath the clear surface with its teeming minnows, we pushed
shin-deep through the creek, crawdads hiding, black
pincers pointing out. We snatched living food from the river—
steelhead and trout. We drank the water.




White Hawk

by Dion O'Reilly

From Canary Winter 2017-18

The mourning doves cooed
their question—Where? Where?
but today, silence.

I filled the feeders
just after dawn, saw the patch
of fluffy down

on the grass below.
One wing feather with a black dot,
told me who died.

Probably a hawk—
my favorite white one,
the leucistic one—

plunged from the sky,
snatched up the dove
settled on the pine,

stood, gripping the blood-
pink neck, and shrieked
a call echoing

down the long valley.
That piebald raptor—
the one I’ve watched

for years, proud that she
chose to live above my field,
as if she were mine,

a totem, my emblem of grace,
the one who snatches me
out of my thoughts,

stuns me on mornings
when I wake, dull, frightened
by my own emptiness,

how sharp and thin
the edges I balance on.
I hear her

shrill and alone,
drifting on the warm thermals
like the outstretched palm of a ghost.




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