two poems

by Suzanne O'Connell

Target Practice

My mother was the boss of our house.
Jesus God was the boss of the world.
These things I knew.
Otherwise, I was confused.
The teachers in Sunday school said: “Be like Jesus.”
But the pictures they showed,
the blood, wood, stabs, nails and dangling feet,
who wanted to end up like that?

My mother was even more confusing.
I was not the apple of her eye.
I was the apple-head she shot at.
I was her paper target,
the outline of a girl,
red circle drawn around my heart.
I never knew what I did wrong or how to be better.
The look on her face was the tip-off.
Her normal eyes turned into metal cannonballs.
Her mouth, maybe smiling a minute ago,
became a pleated curtain on a thin rod.
Then she shot again, her words piercing my skin.

Now I’m an adult, still full of holes.
I can’t hold directions in my head.
Food doesn’t stick to my ribs.
And any love that comes my way
leaks straight out.


What Luck

Somebody ran out on somebody.
Someone drank too much.
Over there, an unkind word.
In that kitchen, a knife drawer opens
or a bruise blooms on a neck.
At the shore, a freak wave is forming.

But tonight,
in the blue TV glow,
our dog lies between us.
The fire that could have started
in the old wires, didn’t.
The errant cells
didn’t color outside their lines.
Tonight, that peculiar wave
didn’t crest in our direction.
Tonight my toes touch your toes
as we watch cars crash together
on the nine o’clock news.

Suzanne O’Connell’s recently published work can be found in North American Review, Poet Lore, The Menacing Hedge, Steam Ticket, American Chordata, and Forge.  O’Connell was nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. Her first poetry collection, “A Prayer For Torn Stockings,” was published by Garden Oak Press in 2016 and her new poetry collection, “What Luck” was published in March, 2019.

Artwork by: Ano Karina