The Poetry of Dan O.


Dan O. is the reincarnation of a small, prehistoric flying insect related to the present-day house fly.  His poems have appeared in the Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Clarendon, and elsewhere.











The staircase walks off on its own,
tired of being ignored.

The refrigerator worries
it will be hauled out of the house
and left on the street,
doors dismembered.

The father sits in the yard
and does not brush the lost ant
back to the barbed grass;
he lets it tickle his dying arm
as he counts the untapped dandelions
and the crucial moments of his life
when he remained silent.

All homes are broken
like a collection of jigsaw puzzle pieces
that were not originally cut
from one majestic scene
in a windowless factory at the riverís edge
overgrown with empty beer cans of teenagers
and condoms flattened and dried with age
like pressed flowers.

A home must be built up
from a thousand bricks, beams and 2x4s,
sheet rock and tile, glass and hinges,
hundreds of feet of electrical wire,
forgiveness and commitment,
short and long lengths of pipe fitted together,
in the underbelly of the house.



My father throwing one of us across the room
into the wall. It was Patrick. It was me.
My memory is confused. All I know,
after I calm down,
is that I throw things,
cups, pillows, pictures,
a restaurant chair once that I had to pay for,
a marriage.

Iím always ready, even on good days,
to fling myself across the room, out the door,
out of town, starting over,
wanting the fight to be over.


The angry voice is never loud enough.
cannot be effusive enough. I need them


Parents out of the house, older brother
taking charge, taking Dadís chair,
watching TV, telling me
to stop jumping on the sofa,
stop using the lampshade
as a hoop for the tennis ball,
stop and sit still,
like a man, he said, like a man.

I shut off the TV and he got me,
beat me with fists and feet,
exhausted himself like working a long day
and needing to relax with the TV.

I shut it off again and ran
to the bathroom and locked myself in.
When I came out, my brother beat me
like a mute jackhammer, furious,

and I was mad too,
at everything light enough for me to pick up
and project.


A wrecking ball crossing the wind as if
An embodied will swooping down, devout,
Toppled the vacant mansion on Montauk Highway,
Once a fixture of the town where I was raised,
A landmark, something you could tell visitors
To look out for and when you see it
Turn right, or left.
Often I recall that old, condemned house
Broken apart.

It took only one day for the whistling crane
And winged steel
To create a barren space
Where once I could enter a secret world
By moving the loose planks of a boarded-up window
And, hidden, express my innermost feelings
With spray paint and M80s
Like a deranged haiku poet.

A large chunk of my youth was hauled away
In those muddy yellow trucks
That were filled with wood and bricks
By thick-armed, sweaty men, meditative, burly men;
From across the street I watched the work,
Destruction by turns as clumsy and meticulous
As cosmic design.

Now, years from there, another era of my life
Is abruptly altered,
Because someone with whom
I shared everything,
Who called me her soulmate,
Is leaving.
And I stand to the side,
Lean lightly on the wall while she prepares
Kitchen boxes for the movers, kitchen boxes for the movers,
Protecting her portion of the dishware with crumpled newspaper:
Ceramic mixing bowls, china plates, antique American platters,
Miscellaneous jars and lids
And wine glasses as delicate
As wine glasses or sheet rock or insight or anything.

Things change; that is all there is to understand.
No, there is nothing to discuss
Nor any such thing as closure:
Listen, listen to the long sound of structures crashing
And the rustling and banging
Of strong, silent, pot-bellied men, angels,
Angels lugging furniture out the door.



Iím tired of writing about the half moon
and leftovers
covered over
by mold,

or if the moon must wane, I want
to notice when its fullness spreads
across the tops of summer oaks,
through jagged, windy leaves
shedding chaotic light.

If the spaghetti sauce is months old,
spotted with furry, purple fungus,
in an old yogurt container
in the back of the refrigerator,
I want to have helped stir the pot,
added the bay leaf
and kept the simmer steady.

If the wine has turned, I want
to have been the one who put
the half-finished bottle
on the top shelf
and forgot it up there
with the cans of Campbellís soup and packages
of cheap ramen
and to use the transformed wine,
perfect vinegar.

If there is a garden, but the broccoli
has gone to seed
and sunflowers, unharvested,
bend like weary backs
to a tilled rectangle of earth,
I want to have planted the rows
and tried to tend
everything growing.

If forests must be felled and homes
built and burnt to the ground
I want at least to have lived
among people
and their plans:

not necessarily to have opened
a small business, started
something bustling
out of loans and perspiration
rank as the scent of sex on blood-rich nights,
a repair shop, bakery or bead store,
a delicatessen dangling
at an intersection,
a corner market created from empty shelves
and ideas
together with a woman
whose hatred
of certain essential
elements of me
is overshadowed by acceptance,
strong as a deadbolt or hand truck;

not necessarily to have set in motion
some such store
or reached
some other near-impossible goal,
but at least to have lived
among people,
made plans,
trembled, stumbled blind
through aisles
with goods.


The cockroaches come out at night
To feast on the fatigue of men,
Pizza crust and spilt milk:
No sense wiping it up,

It dries soon enough
Like cum
And beer in the bedcovers

Or the adopted cat
Whose door is the hall window
Always propped open by a plastic fork
The milk-lake from the linoleum,
With its scratchy tongue
While one of the men finally sweeps
And scrubs the common room
In a rugged, lingering dream
Of home.

These are the men who live without telephone or stoves,
Who survive using only a microwave and magazines,
Maybe a hotplate,
Very rarely a whore.

These are the men whose long crumbling skin and souls
Make a sound louder, slightly louder, than a frog splash,
But infinitely softer
Than the sound of a building taken down by dynamite
Or fertilizer bomb
Like a boxer brought to his knees, praying
In earnest now, no longer believing
He is invincible:

A sound very similar to the muffled scream
Of a man who has fractured his shoulder,

A sound falling between all volumes,
That no one notices, not even
The man in the next room, a landscaper maybe,
A taper or retired teacher,
A trucker there only two nights a week.
A shoe salesman, perhaps, from the old school, when shoe salesmen
Kneeled down to size the foot and fit the shoe ,
Usually a factory worker,
Always a brilliant schizophrenic
Living like a bat,
Often a cab driver or cook,
Sometimes a thief.

All asleep or smoking on sagging beds,
Beds as broken by wear as old womenís breasts,
Pillows as wrinkled and spotted as testicles,
Men as elusive and fleeting as flies,
Men who die with a few chosen books
Huddling together
As if making plans
On makeshift shelves
With mysterious grime.


Dust covering everything like a filthy patch quilt:
a strangerís storage become junk: a box of masks,
another of magazines, newspapers, and letters bundled

together with rubber bands more brittle
than a flyís skull, milk crate of moldy books,
duffel bag of moth eaten clothes (blank name-tag),

dead moths, two obsolete typewriters (Underwood,
one long-necked coke bottle propped up in a shoe,

flashlight (corroded batteries) hanging on a rusted nail
and, leaning against each other at the highest peak of brown beams,
nine canvasses stretched over scrap wood frames.

All faces, fiery greenish faces,
brilliant blue and yellow backgrounds, portraits as great
and tormented as lonely, gaudy-bordered museum pieces

(Picassoís Old Guitarist, Degasí Absinthe Drinkers,
an anonymous Christ,
whatís his nameís scream).

The art, the art
Iíll keep. The rest Iíll put out with the garbage