local_library Labyrinth

by Kevin O'Connor

Published in Issue No. 291 ~ August, 2021

Sometimes I feel like a neutron

trapped in a rusted can of pineapple,

squashed in a graphite tennis racket.


fissured by ultraviolet rays,

nudged into uva ursi and lupine,

batted from a thousand sleepless eyes.


Sometimes even my own thoughts

seem foreign. My feet ache

from dead cows, or maybe the idea


of meat, the musk of butcher shops

and butchers, delis, pigs’ heads hung

like trophies from silver hooks.


Who is the woman speaking to—

that one, standing in the sleeveless

dress, wearing daisies in her


unkempt hair? Or is it merely you,

the reader-savant, nodding off?

This morning, I noticed a lunette


of coffee grounds beneath my mug

when I lifted it from the dining room table.

I tried to count each ground. Despite


all appearances to the contrary,

I was practicing the scientific method

like Gregor Mendel, who I memorized


in elementary school, along with Bernoulli’s

Principle, Avogadro’s Number, axons,

respiration. I remember history too—


mundane facts about Phillip II,

Gutenberg, the Bubonic plague,

The Viceroyalty of Peru, Chichen Itza,


which may be why my head

feels on the verge of implosion.

Faster! I tell myself. The mutant


aliens are on their way. Your rabbit

Ursula needs water.

Am I still in the butcher shop?


A boy’s apron is smeared with blood.

A girl in jeans wields a hunting knife,

plunges it into a wooden counter.


Jazz comes on the radio. The sun

blooms dust on the sill. Am I

still speaking? Can anyone hear?


Some seconds hold months or years,

just as hands transmit love.


Love, I think, transcends guts,

the severed hearts spurting

red paint there on the floor. Someone


dropped them. They aren’t mine. Look:

the girl retrieves one, brushes

away soot. It’s still beating, this radiant,


crimson fruit. What should I sing to it?

A melody of grapes. Leaves. Gravel

on seasonal roads. There, stiff


as an evergreen is Beethoven himself, kissing

Joan of Arc, or maybe my grandmother.

Ah, hearts! Ah, stars! Ah, Science!


You all seem one, sewn into a thundering eye,

at the foot of an invisible mountain

kissing the toes of clouds, the tails,


paws, ears, chins, bones of poor ancestors,

starving from a lack of potatoes, clinging

to the rails of some hopeful, patched Titanic.


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Kevin J.B. O'Connor received his MFA from Old Dominion University. Currently he is pursuing a PhD in English at University of Kentucky. He lives in Lexington, KY.