Winter Palace

Meghan O'Rourke

By my hands I hang in the bedroom
of a man’s strange mind.
The walls are lined with fleurs-de-lis
made from the fur of mice.
Smoke rises in the chimney.

Yet another plague—
in northern pastures long-nosed horses
stamp at the smell of bodies
burning behind the castle.
The rope around my fingers creaks,

moths bang against the window,
a doctor stumbles up the walk—
the corners are full of needles
to help me sleep,
mice lie like kings in their copper traps.

Keep still, he says,
the vein is hard to find
without a little pinch. See?
Supervision is so
much better than freedom.


The Lost Sister

She was a master of childhood, very green,
very given to play, very sleepy, very grit of gray.
I, I was a shadow in a tree for no one to see,
I was a piece of ice in a tidal sweep.
When she laughed the sea made order of disorder.
I was a shadow in a tree, a stain
along the thawing bough for no one to see.

In her life, the hours pass casually.
Snow continues to pile on snow,
the dust in the corners of the old farmhouse
grows like mice in the winter.
I, I was the snow that fell too soon,
before the ground had frozen enough to catch me
and make me stick.


Peep Show

Tokens in the slot:
ka-shot, shot, shot.
A figure in the darkness.
The tin crank
of canned do-wop.

Someone is always watching—
don’t you think?
Duck, turn, and wink.
Bodies at a distance—
that’s what we are,

raises, renovations, Florida,
dinner by the sea.
Look at you.
The waves go swiftly
out of sight—

a long ellipsis
of glaciers swallowing the sun—
come quick, no time for this,
the girls in thongs
are glancing at the clock.


Sandy Hook

The fire burned my cousin here.
First in his bed in the bungalow garage.
Then at the lock, scratching in fear.
Quick, quick. The trundle bed
burned. The violin, unpracticed, burned.
The keys of the body, burned. Yellow, red,
the turning leaves. The burning
thing, ablaze, a living shroud: smoke, air, bone,
a licking; then the carbonite no one looks at twice.
The instrument, delinquent with disuse.
Outside, the hooks of the waves twist
and desist, twist and insist,
like coats hung out beneath
the snailing clouds to dry.


War Lullaby

Wet daggers of grass
cast shadows over one another
beneath the porch light—

the boy stretched on the lawn,
fighting sleep,
fingers the tournament ring:

inside the house
his mother shouts, blinds
slap in the breeze,

and upstairs the smallest stir
as they sleep, eyelashes like
tiny whips against their cheeks.

The dogs bark, a door slams,
the boys breathe deep,
then shudder—

I have seen them
out of the arms of mothers.

Back to top ↑

Sign up for Our Email Newsletter