Cajun Mutt Press Featured Writer 08/10/20

Symphony of Empties

I spent months
in rooms where the lamps
had only shattered
light bulbs
and the hours
were greater than 60
minutes, 65 more like,
or 70,
and I was
filling the extra
minutes of those
unslept hours
with lament after
of regrets
for all that
was lost,
and all
I should
have been
but could not be.
And the doubts came
hand in hand
with their liquid
power source,
and I swallowed
all those nights
and slept with
the clanking
of the empties
as I rolled
with them
from bed
to floor
to bathroom.
They were my only
friends, my
only companions,
and I wrote down
everything they said,
every last
clank of glass
against glass
or glass
on stone
or foot,
the glug
of spillage on the carpet,
the bed,
the piles of dirty
and clean laundry.
And they
were honest,
those empties, true,
unlike so many,
in their resolve,
in their dedication
to me.

A female guest
once came
over with intent
but she saw
the empties,
the regal bottles
of Crown
in front of the red
wine on the counter
in military formation
for the seriousness
of their job,
the beer bottles
spread all about
like welcome house guests
digging in
and making themselves
at home.
But she did not understand
their language,
“Do you drink too much?”
she asked stopping
midway in the action
of taking off
her coat.
I looked
at all my friends,
my supporters
on the counter
the table
the nightstand
the kitchen floor
the bathroom
the desk,
especially the desk,
where I play
with the shapes
of the vowels
and the consonants.

“No,” I said, “Sometimes not enough.”

But her mind
was changed, and no coat
came off,
and there
was no sleeping
of any kind
until she left
so I went
out to the bars,
staggered up steps
and down
alleys and pissed
in elevators,
passed out
in taxis
or the back
of my own car
where the passenger
seat remained ever
the CD player
in D minor,
and where I felt
like the last
man alive for all
I’d lost,
or imagined
I’d lost,
and standing alone in my kitchen
I repeated aloud
my consolation,
“Well,” sip, sip,
“at least
I got a book
out of it,”
and the bottles
of Crown
nodded in affirmation.

But then, the book
came out. I
gained weight,
became soft
around the edges,
my skin cracked
and shed whole pieces
of itself
from my arms
and one
partly cloudy
Saturday afternoon
as I vacuumed
for the first time
in an age,
my heart
and became
once again.
And the empties
lessened a little.
The clinks and
the clanks
and boings
and hollow hums
of their strange
lessened a little.

They lessened just enough
as I remembered
all that was,
all those words
that were,
that are,
that can be,
even the goodbyes,
and of course,
the hellos,
and I knew again,
finally remembered
the forgotten thing.
It is not that
It is that they begin,
that good
things come,
good things
will always
to the heart
that absorbs,

©2020 Dave O’Leary All rights reserved.


Dave O’Leary is a writer and musician living in Seattle. He’s had two novels published (The Music Book, Booktrope, 2014 and Horse Bite, Infinitum, 2011) and has had prose and poetry featured in, the Portland Book Review, Vamp Cat Magazine, Turnpike Magazine, Line Rider Press, and Cajun Mutt Press. Both of his novels featured poetry mixed in with the prose, and now he is at work on his first full-length collection of poetry.

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