The Manchester Review
Gregory O'Brien
Four Poems
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A consort of flower parts

for Jen

If the life of the mind is
a history of
interesting mistakes
          then what of

the life of the body—a memorable swim
within certain boundaries?

As in a botanical diagram,
letters are usually assigned
          the diverse parts:

stem, leaf, stamen, much the way
those same letters are dispersed
across the writerly sky
          above Hataitai.

So, too, our marriage was
annotated, inflected.
Let’s go swimming, you said,
          in your blue shoes. Who needs
an ocean
or the blustery light

all about us. Afternoons
I returned to the suit
in which I was married,
          the blackness

of its incomparably blue
day—the sea of where it was
          we went.

          It was us, alone,
but not for long—others joined in,
names were distributed,
commas placed between them,
          bedrooms added,
instruments assigned.
Chandeliers hovered above
our time together,

letters of a glass alphabet. We thought
the world. And how it was we came to be
who we were
          or just west of there.
In the coral sea you were
the brightest of fishes
          and I was marooned
half way through a poem called
‘Beauties of the octagonal pool’.

There were, at times, differences
concerning music, the lifespan
          of a couch, number of books
on a shelf, the time anything

takes. The year the Australian
Prime Minister wouldn’t say ‘sorry’
          we made a picnic
of the cold

but you were nowhere to be found
on that icy rug. We had driven
          down a side road,
at the end of which
a sign: ‘Sorry, Garden Growing’.

It was the comma, carefully rendered,
that held us—this comma at the end of
          Hokianga Harbour,
high above Omapere, an eyelash
          or falling star. The comma
          after ‘sorry’
which followed us south.
We thought the world

          of each other, and
beyond the bird-like lettering
          the cathedrals of
our time together
were a succession
          of photo-booths. Times
we forgot to smile.

It was Spring
or thereabouts
          and the high-flying punctuation
of Hataitai, all flower parts
and parts of speech, was
all about us. Out-of-service buses
bearing the word ‘sorry’
          coasted by.

          With its dream of
perfectly spaced
events and objects, it is the comma
          that outlives these words—between

‘sorry’ and ‘garden growing’,
a seedling dropped
between adult plants. Whatever else
the season delivers

in the end all we have is
          which exists
between us, a pod and a curl,
which holds us