Shot Down Above Sicily

James O’Leary


Haunting asks a question the haunted know
____the answer to. The serene Mediterranean Sea holds
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry–lost colossus,

I stand above his bones, waves at my knees, playing planes
____through the sky with my clay-wrought child’s hands. Poet,
picture this another way: the bar is a planet for the alcoholic

ancestors of your family. They sit in neat rows forgetting
____to forget, remembering memory. At dawn, they line
their red eyes up by the windows to watch the seven suns leak

headaches into half-remembered hopes. Has an elephant
____seen the sun-bleached shores of ancient Sicily? On board a trireme,
ears tired to the mast like leather sails, tusks the last bones to drown?

Haunting asks a question the haunted know the answer to.
____Let me bring you to an empty room: walls shellacked
or maybe only shelled, broken glass leaking down

through open ceiling. You can’t hear the hopeful song
____because the band is manned by ghosts & ghosts
play only to show you what they want to show so

let us return to the sea, tombstones flocking the dark
____bay’s waters as far as the eye can reach, can sing.
The wet sand tracks time the same way a tongue

traces teeth as they grind. Have you ever wanted to drown? At the bar,
____a clock blocks the window. The bar is a bedroom now,
your bedroom: cross on the wall, not a writer’s room

until you add the child. Haunting
____haunts. Some dreams are quite simple. The moon
drags the earth with invisible fingers, & you

still say you don’t believe in ghosts? The figures
____quite clearly, right there, walking on the water, telling stories?
Storms ie. suicides form from an equal & opposite attraction

ie. question. Unremembered mothers stand
____on the horizons of the Earth. A boat bars the bridge
to another land. Call me grandmother, repetition

a life you denied yourself like a song that just won’t stop.
____Like a song that just won’t stop, you deny yourself,
day after undead day. Wonder: if a handful of narcissists

cause every pain in this land, turning them into ghosts
____isn’t morality but a series of questions. If, then. Now,
the bedroom rocks with a haunted tide. Yellow carpets.

A little moonlight leaking into the space where I took
____my own life; if you squint; a shadow of a plane
blocks stars as a giant carries its magnificent flight.



James O’Leary (they/them) is a bi, genderfluid poet and barista from Arizona. They are currently located in Los Angeles, where they are trying their best.

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