by George O'Connell

Published in Issue No. 128 ~ January, 2008

In a corner of the parking lot,

a small forest waiting to be chipped,

balsam, spruce, Scotch pine

shouldered together in the hard

January light, some still aglint

with stray tinsel, needle and bough

a scumble of brushstrokes

against the sky’s blue page,

here and there a wreath,

painted pinecone,

smuggled sack of leaves.

The flocked lie off to one side,

softwood crosstrees

tacked to each dry stump,

their dead-white ironies

postmodernist, poor mulch.

Yet everywhere, faint breath

of the boreal, and tossed

atop the rest, brown spikes

long stripped, a skeleton

of last year’s tree bears up

its tattered garland of a summer nest,

flagged with cellophane.

Not far from their pickup,

a couple and a child

wade green branches,

heads bent, watchful where they step,

seeking the bright thing fallen.

After Daumier

Two crows on Terrace St.,

black beaks tugging

stripes of squirrel

from grey pavement,

a breath of red fur

still glossing the breeze,

the crows’ sheen

chaste and juridical. They part

just enough for my car,

then turn in the mirror

shrewdly to their labors.

How often now they pace our lots

circumspect in pairs,

flipping the crushed leaf of a lunchsack,

or at dusk, convening in the trees

above the fairways of the country club,

familiar and at ease, entirely

untroubled we might hear

their gargled conversations–

jocular, amused, roundly oracular,

as if they could relax,

the verdict in, the sentence passed,

our long and costly trial

come at last to judgement.


November, by the stubblefield,

what’s left of Tuesday’s snow

slabbed in shaded swales;

on the red weeds sun enough

for every step to fan

a gray-green chirr of wings.

Some whir down

where snow’s iced hard as china,

and chill there to a crawl,

the clever, hooked tarsals

still pulling them along.

But already on the white glaze

creep hundreds, each moment

deepening their cold

while warm black loam

looms always just beyond.

It is impossible to walk here

without stirring more

onto the snow. The sun

rises higher, but for now

not a bird has found them

as one by one, they stall

in a slow tai chi,

torpid, comical, sublime.

account_box More About

2005-6 U.S. Fulbright Professor of Creative Writing and American Literature at Peking University, George O'Connell has won numerous awards for his poetry, including Atlanta Review's International Grand Prize, Nimrod International Journal's Pablo Neruda Award, Bellingham Review's 49th Parallel Award, and Marlboro Review's 2003 Prize in Poetry. Currently Prof. of Creative Writing & Literature at United International College in Zhuhai, China, near Hong Kong, he is assembling with Diana Shi an anthology of contemporary Chinese poetry in English translation.