3 poems by Nathanael O’Reilly

    Ash Wednesday

    A pastor loiters on the lawn

    beside the sidewalk outside

    the Methodist Campus Ministry

    left hand in his pocket, right

    hand clutching a brown glazed

    bowl of ashes beside a poster

    attached to a wooden easel

    with a hand-written message

    in thick blue ink: ASHES & PRAYERS

    students rush past the pastor

    on their way to class, focus eyes

    on iPhones, cracks in the pavement

    passing trucks, bikes and cars

    buildings under construction

    muddy water flowing in the gutter


    two pairs of white canvas shoes

    laces tied together, hang from powerlines

    high above the entrance to the subdivision

    like a warning against suburban dreams 

    the empty shell of a Jacuzzi

    lies stranded on its side

    beside the Interstate

    abandoned, waterless, powerless

    three miles closer to the city

    a king-sized mattress sleeps on the shoulder

    pillow-top torn, stuffing emerging

    like a hernia proclaiming mortality

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    Nathanael O’Reilly is an Irish-Australian residing in Texas. His books include Preparations for Departure, Distance, Cult, Suburban Exile and Symptoms of Homesickness. His poetry has appeared in publications from twelve countries, including Antipodes, Backstory, Cordite, fourW, Headstuff, Mascara, Skylight 47, Snorkel, Verity La and The Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology 2017.