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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.


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