SOMEBODY LOVES ME
03/15/2010

In a little old house lived a little wild girl.
She stayed all alone in her own little world.
She ran and she jumped and she danced and she played
Alone in the house all night and all day.

Now the little old house was a friendly old house.
It had many big windows and one little white mouse.
The sofa was fluffy and so were the chairs.
There was a big warm fire at the bottom of the stairs.
And the freezer was full of chocolate bars.
And the house had no roof, she slept under the stars.

But the best place of all in the little old house
Was the white white bathroom where the little white mouse
Would sail on the soap in the old white tub.
And the soap made bubbles that went Bubbly Bub Bub.
And the tub grabbed the floor with four terrible paws.
And each paw had four toes and the toes were called Claws.

And the tub was magic. The tub had a knack:
If you told it your name it would say it right back!
You could say Jimmy! and the tub would say Jimmy!
You could say Timmy! and the tub would say Timmy!
You could say Suzi or Peter or Ted
And the tub would repeat whatever you said.

But that was a problem. This was a fact.
For a name was something that the little girl lacked.
For try as she might with a whisper or shout
It was stuck on her tongue and it wouldn’t come out.
If she had a name then why couldn’t she say it?
If a name was a game then surely she’d play it.
If a name was a ball then surely she’d throw it.
Maybe the problem was she didn’t know it!

“WHAT’S MY NAME?” said the girl and she got no answer
she was stuck like a dance on the floor with no dancer.
“What’s my name?” said girl, and she knew it was missing
like a song about lovers that never got kissing.
“Where is everybody? Where’d everyone go?
Does anyone love me? Why don’t they say so?”

The fire wouldn’t say so, the bed wouldn’t speak.
The tub couldn’t talk and the mouse wouldn’t squeak.
The chair and the sofa were fluffin and puffin
But none of them helped. Nobody said nothing!
So the little girl cried. She cried and she cried.
She cried until both of her eyes were dried.

“Nobody loves me,” the little girl said.
“Not the mouse or the fire or the tub or the bed.”
So the little girl lay and she looked at the stars
And she thought, “How lucky some people are.
Somebody loves them, somebody who
Will hug them and kiss them and tuck them in, too.”

Then the little girl slept and she dreamed a strange dream.
She lived in a house that was somewhere between
The stars and the moon and though it was home
There was no one else there and she was alone.
Then the most wonderful, wonderful, wonderful thing
Happened so quickly it changed everything!
The whole house was different though it all looked the same
The little girl woke and remembered her name!

“My name is MAGGIE,” she told the old bed.
“My name is MAGGIE!” the little girl said.
“My name is Maggie and I’m not alone.
Somebody loves me and Now I Am Home!”

“Somebody loves me,” she said to the mouse.
“Somebody loves me,” she said to the house.
“My name is MAGGIE! I know what I knew!”
And the tub said it back. It remembered her, too!

And finally the little girl knew where to go.
She had to go fast, she couldn’t go slow.
So she ran down the hall to where the babies’ room was
Where the twins slept all night in their twin pajamas.
Noah’s was blue and Emma’s was pink.
And sometimes the twins’ pajamas would stink.

But Maggie didn’t care. She was happy and wild.
And the twins were awake and they both had a smile.
They were so glad to see her; they’d been waiting a while.
And she kissed them and told him that she missed them, too.
She said, “Somebody loves you! Somebody loves you!
Somebody loves you! It’s me and I DO!”

—Patrick O’Leary
For Maggie, and Noah and Emma

Fingerpainting by Stephanie Metz “Girl in a Nightgown”
(For more of her work click on the picture)

FLIGHT OVER HOLLYWOOD
03/03/2010

It happened on one of those crazy roads

that snake up the Hollywood Hills

where James Dean had his knife fight

at the Griffith Observatory

We parked at a scenic overlook

to watch the sun dive into the ocean

like a perfect hillside pool

& this tanned body builder in a tank top

had a Styrofoam airplane

with wings about this wide

He launched it up into a vortex only he could feel

& the space fell away

as it rose above the valley

then somehow looped back

He must have plotted

its course to perfection

for it curved home on invisible currents

& he snatched it effortlessly

That would have been enough

but as we moved in to admire his craft

he slid back the transparent canopy

& showed us the pilot:

a tiny white mouse with pink claws & red eyes

& all the way to the bottom

down the steep & deadly roads

that skim the edges

of those crazy hills

I wondered about that mouse

What was the flight for him?

Sheer terror

or sweet transcendence?

Or something only small things can grasp

when they are loved & kept & freed

by crazy gods

& flung into the sky

GIVEN NAMES
02/24/2010

I have two sons I gave them names

& crooked laughs & skittish brains

& marked them with my absence & my hopes

I sang them songs & called their wrongs

& tried to show them all the ropes

& failing that as all men do

I cooled their fevered brows

& rocked them through

the nightmares that all went away

& came back in the middle of the day

I talked them down off edges

& heard their shredded hearts

& taught them what I know of endings & of starts

& from this dimming vantage of my years

I know I spared them neither love nor tears

I am no wiser on the way

than they on any given day

& all the wars I led them through

have won us what: I couldn’t say

& looking back upon a fading land

that I have failed to understand

I stand as someday they must too

& wonder what it might be like

to meet them somewhere in the night

when we lay down our shields

& all our duties done

in the gathering of fathers & of sons

where we have no more titles only names

where we are made of what we choose

& what we take & what we lose

For all our differences & shame

we’ll meet as men who are the same

& there as they have never done

these aging men whom I call son

will call me by my given name

SPELLS NO
02/19/2010

I’m blowing smoke rings
& my son says,
“Can you do an ‘N’?”

-4/5/85

KNOWING
02/18/2010

She told me she put

the stillborn baby

in the freezer

in plastic wrap

right next to

the aluminum

ice cube trays

& then she almost shrugged

like Oh Well

Where else was I gonna put it?

& this old woman

this mother of 8

whom I had known

for 25 years

became a stranger

just like that

like someone

taking off

their favorite mask

& I thought

If I don’t know her

who do I know?

THE NUMBERS
02/07/2010

The wasted cityscape below

has more abandoned homes

than any budget

could afford to tear down

So they rest there

the way we all do eventually

empty of everything

but memories

The calamity has trickled 12 stories up

to the high-rise copper tower

with all the empty offices

Gleaming smiles with missing teeth

The lawyer has no admin

just an outer room where

we set our coats on chairs

It looks like people have melted

leaving only their outerwear

Behind a sparse desk he sits

& explains the concept of bankruptcy

It is important that we grasp

the numbers

the difference between

Chapter 7 & Chapter 13

I don’t understand

He explains again

I still don’t understand

& he gets mad

You’re not listening he snaps

I give him 3 pieces of paper

my expenses

my assets

my debts

You’re missing a piece of paper he says

Your income

I have no income I say

He smiles & says

O yes you do

I haven’t had a job in 13 months

You have a pension & unemployment?

Yes

It takes half my pension

to cover my family’s healthcare

Because I have a pension

they cut my benefits in half

Out of that they garnish

my ex’s spousal support

If I do any work

they cut my benefits altogether

I am broke

in debt

underwater

& about to lose our home

You call that income?

Outside the high window

Detroit is bone cold

so we sit in his small office

as if we were trapped

To him this is entirely routine

You had a severance? he asks

Yes & I tell him the figure

And where did That go?

It was the thing he did with his mouth

after he asked that question

That was when I decided

to fire him

PIGS
02/02/2010

They think they are fat sows

enjoying the fruits of their labor

reclined & matronly providing

warm milk to dozens of piglets

who sip their multiple teats

& if one should run dry

then that’s natural

& we should simply wait our turn

wait till someone else has had their fill

They were once piglets too

& Lord knows they waited

They have it quite backwards

We are the sow

We do the labor

They live off our milk

& they are drinking us dry

The difference is

they don’t know they’re pigs

THE BIG THING AT THE END
12/12/2009

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