Archive for December, 2009


My wife wakes up at midnight

& mumbles


I do not know

what color

the inside of a cow is.”

–Patrick O’Leary


William Safire (1929–2009) Deceased Grammarian

“Last, but not least, avoid clichés like the plague.”


My friend once took a vow of silence

a whole week in the Smoky Mountains

surrounded by the rustling sunlit trees

birdsong scored at intervals

rain paradiddling on the leaves

little gulps in the puddles

& that fifth night when the wind rose

& the dark thundered with percussion

things falling, turning over

trees creaking as they clung

My friend my poor friend

with nothing but books

prayers & meditation

silent meals silent walks

& silently after the storm

he crept to the one phone booth

on the vast estate & there he sought

not conversation not company

not even chatter

He wanted a human voice so badly

he cracked the white pages

ran a finger down the list

& like Olivier began to recite

the glorious alphabetical names

savoring them as if they were food

& he were starving

thrilling as they left

the empty chamber of his mouth

& made their passage into whisper

It must have been like that

when god broke his silence

& named the animals

–Patrick O’Leary

The London Financial Times reviews THE BLACK HEART- “I see a darkness”
12/13/2009 / Books / Essays – I see a darkness.

“…The flinty brilliance of The Black Heart lies in a willingness to leave its stories open-ended and ambiguous. O’Leary, a Detroit resident and former creative director of an advertising agency, hints that life today is so bewildering that it should not be entirely decoded in fiction.”


Whatever the origins

be they Odin or St. Nick

Coca-Cola or Mattel

Whatever the impetus

that spawned this

winter window of magic

this consensual phantasm

of red & green & turkey

firs eggnog & fires

when neighbors go a little nuts

& streets are lit by fairy dust

& grownups take occasion

to be jolly

Red-nosed children

jump out of their skins

because some fat elf

rides the night

spews his bounty

& gives them

the one dream they

can wake up to not from

Keep your disclaimers

Hold the humbug

My joy doesn’t depend

on consensus

or the happiness

of everyone

& beautiful songs

remain beautiful

because they are

so longing to be true

For me the impulse to give

whatever we wrap it in

is gift enough

& I remain that boy

who on the brink of sleep

could have sworn

he heard hooves on the roof

who wanted to believe

in such a world

where a total stranger

knows what you need most

& gives it to you


The one time I ever fainted

she said

I was furious when they woke me

We laughed that laugh

when you want to hold someone

& say Yes I know yes Yes it’s awful

& it may not get better

but we laughed instead

& someone said my friend

was dying from an overdose of penicillin

& he felt nothing but ecstasy

& another said yes

my friend felt the same

when she was drowning

on a perfect summer day

& someone asked what possible

evolutionary purpose

could such a reprieve serve?

Couldn’t it all be random?

But it nagged us nonetheless

that in our final passage

we might go gently

& I noticed no one dared

to tender the possibility of

a merciful manager of

survival dispensing relief

though that is what some of us

actually believe or hope

& then our friend whose mother

had survived the camps said

Perhaps it’s not for us

but for the predator

rewarding his catch

by pacifying his prey

(who after all is caught)

hastening the transition

from creature to meal

This seemed so shocking

& apt it silenced us

on this lovely evening when

we huddled around

our civilized fire

of coffee cheese & crackers

telling stories of precipices

reassuring the tribe

with tales of great escapes

thrilling chases & close calls

which if one is honest

form the spine of all story

& I believe each of us

became aware

for the briefest moment

of that larger thing

hovering outside

in the brutal winter

& the darker dark

who occasionally listened in

on our little group

of story makers

sometimes observing

our lively heads chatting

in the golden windows

of the night

& thought

Let them talk

Let them talk their heads off

–Patrick O’Leary

The Funniest Protest Signs Of 2009 (PHOTOS)

The Funniest Protest Signs Of 2009 (PHOTOS).

The Wisdom of George W. Bush–The Q & A Memoir

“Q: Mr. President, many of your supporters believe that homosexuality is immoral. They believe that it’s been given too much acceptance in policy terms and culturally. As someone who’s spoken out in strongly moral terms, what’s your view on homosexuality?”

A: “I am mindful that we are all sinners. I caution those who may try to take the speck out of a neighbor’s eye when they got a log in their own.”**

And just because their speck is way bigger than our log doesn’t give us the right to lord it over them. God forgives everyone no matter how deprived or disgusting their behaviors. And god knows we have all sinned.We are all sinners. Which is why Christ had to be crucified on the cross. For sin. For sinful behaviors. When I was AOL from the National Guard I gotta a good long Major League look at a sinner’s lifestyle. I’m not proud of it. And I’monna tellya –after 3 days of partying nonstop in Tijuana you get a little down on yourself. So I’m not saying I’m better than anyone. I been round the block. And I found just how precious–the precious traditional family whatever is. And it’s something I tried to passover to my own daughters. Not exactly total success there–though I do think their mom got off a little scott free on the whole parental blame thing. But I’m saying: we’re all sinners. No one is exempt. No one can claim an exemption from temptation. We have all yielded. Who among us has not passed through a yield sign when we knew we should have stopped? Made a full stop. Not a half-hearted coasting sort of stop. So no, regarding homosexuals… They are a marginal lifestyle which I do not embrace. But neither do I condemn. So long as they don’t, you know, propagate what they preach–Yield–I believe abstinence is a healthy disease-free option. Not that I practice it. I’m happy to say we are still full-bore active in that regard. Of course within the context of a sacred, you know, man wife union type thing. What was the question?

** Actual question and answer

New Mary Oliver Poem

There are any number of poems I love, poets I admire. But none that I hold in higher regard than Mary Oliver. I believe among living poets she has no peer. She is a giant among mortals. And the only proof I can offer is a poem like this one: “Starlings in Winter“–another exquisite walk through the park of her dark soul.  And the fact that her work is grounded in three things I find singularly unsympathetic: Nature, God & Love Poems. Honestly. I have read more awful poetry in those metaphorical landscapes than anywhere else. I am admitting to you that she has conquered me wholly on my most well-defended flank.

In fairness I ought to add I have a weakness for birds which, to me, encompass all of the mysterious attraction of those great vortices.



I was walking through the usual day

thinking about all the poetry I could be writing

thinking very beautiful thoughts

thoughts full of knowing sighs

that all my favorite poetry

& usually mine is about

poems you may not understand

the first time you encounter them

or the fifth But isn’t life rather

like that? I still recall the first & last

time I opened a book on calculus

the history of an alien civilization

had dropped onto my lap

I scanned I recognized nothing

& I closed the book thinking

maybe this is how skyscrapers are built

maybe this put men on the moon

but what has that to do with me

& my walks & my beautiful thoughts

which no one understands?

& I sighed as I often do & walked

into the usual day looking for the next poem.