Blood Meal

by Dion O’Reilly


The dying hands of the maple shiver. Why?
There’s no wind. The clouds are a frozen sheet.

All day, a flicker beat the roof seam of my carport.
I didn’t scream the bird away,
didn’t set the house on fire, or run
naked to the beach.

What has become of my thumping heart
of compulsion?

Look at the stranded balloons on the living room ceiling.
My mother’s ninety-third birthday a week ago.
They scare me in the morning
when I’m bleary

their sagging wrinkled heads
on useless strings.

I threw a decent party, I tell myself,
even if no one smiled.

No songs or lit candles.
She savored the cake and suffered the tea.

Again, in my side vision, a persistent
shiver in the maple. Some dervish
caught there, lifted from the slot canyon.

A devil wind, like the radiant
sex energy of a gnat, hungry for a blood meal

before she lays. Before she’s seen
capering in a cloud of kin.

Before the still air opens
and the starlings dip down.

Dion O'Reilly has spent most of her life on a small farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Her debut book, Ghost Dogs, (Terrapin Books 2020) has been shortlisted for a number of prizes including the Catamaran Poetry Prize and The Eric Hoffer Award. Her work appears in American Journal of Poetry, Cincinnati Review, Narrative, The New Ohio Review, The Massachusetts Review, and New Letters. She is a member of The Hive Poetry Collective, which produces podcasts, radio shows, and events. These days, she leads ongoing workshops with small groups of poets from all over the United States and Canada.