David G O'Sullivan

A new bookstore opened in town a few weeks ago

And I went in today.

New carpet, high shelves, fresh clean books

The radio was tuned to Classic FM.

I looked through the books; they were expensive

But the guy running the place was having a go to succeed

So I bought one.

A fat woman sat in one of the chairs near the large windows

And she spoke loudly so everyone could hear.

“A poet has to be able to read their work aloud to audiences,

Writing is not enough

A great poet in a great actor.”

I took my book off the counter and asked for a free bookmark

And scurried home to write some poems

I’ll never read aloud to the all-knowing crowd.

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David G O'Sullivan

The smell of fresh soap

in a crowd set him off.

A man walked passed who smelled like cheap soap

and Johnny lost it, screaming and punching people

until the cops came and arrested him.

I went to see him in the religious place they put him

St. Joseph’s Compassion,

a place for the broken minded.

When I found him, he was lying on a bed chair

on the back lawn in the sun.

I pulled another chair across and sat next to him.

“Hi Johnny, how are you?”  I asked.

He looked at me and smiled. He knew me.

“You won’t believe what goes on here,” he said, a big smile on his lips.


“The nurses come out on the lawn here, naked, completely naked.

You should see the sun shine off their skin,

they lie down, and then the doctors come out

and fuck them right…

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used car

David G O'Sullivan

The car sat on the road, two wheels up the gutter,

two down on the road.

It was a big car, sleek, and flash

but it was old and well used.

“It has a lot of kilometres on the clock,” the man said

touching the steering wheel gently.

“But it’s a good car.”

“Why are you selling?” I asked.

“I want something new,” he shrugged.

The car was beautiful, but you could tell it had been used a lot.

The seats were crushed down; it had the smell of history,

and there were scratches and tears over it.

“Just because it has been around, doesn’t change the fact

it’s a good car. It has never given me trouble.”

I liked the car

but the thought of all the people through it

all the problems that might come up

made me worry.

“I once drove this car across the country,” he…

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Mrs. Bertram

David G O'Sullivan


She sold dolls with hair

They use in human wigs.

The dolls have ball joints and elastic cord

With vinyl skin for easy cleaning

And soft hugging.

The eyes close when you lay it down

Just like a real baby.

“I’ve made the outfits myself,” she said.

“See her range of swimsuits,

Casual gear, day dresses…”

She paused and opened a drawer

“And this, look…”

She took out a long white dress

With beautiful lace patterns

“A wedding dress.”

She held it near the doll’s lifeless face,

Its eyes like ghosts.

“Did you ever marry, Mrs. Bertram?”

She smiled and put the dress away

Covering it with a sheet of thin tissue paper.

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Morning and evening on this very day

David G O'Sullivan


Walking along the lake’s edge, I halt in the long grass and look down at my feet in shock. A baby bird, black fluff and nubs for wings sat just beyond the toe of my boot. In terror, it rolled on its back screaming and shivering. Its mother and father, two large waterfowl swept toward me. Surprised and shocked I stumbled backward and the baby ran away on tiny red legs to join its mother.

She said to me gently in the moonlight that her friend had not yet met someone and felt terribly sad about it. Everyone needs someone she said. I turned away slightly and looked out at the distant lights of the city. I wondered how many people were alone, I thought about the pain of loneliness. All our stories, I thought, are about people meeting. Where are the stories of the people who never meet…

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David G O'Sullivan

I went and saw the guy who lives in the apartment next to me

To tell him his car’s interior light was on.

He came to the door in a yellowing t-shirt torn at his right hip.

I told him about the car, and he thanked me,

Asking me in for a beer.

I sat in his fat armchair; it smelled like sweat and cat urine.

“Do you have a cat?” I asked.

“Nope,” he answered without any hint of surprise.

We started talking about his past.

He worked for the local water board; he dug trenches

And helped the plumbers.

A big man, he leaned on his chair, it groaned under strain.

He put his legs up on his table and sucked at his beer.

“I was a school teacher once,” he continued.

He told me he had lost that job after he beat a kid,


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Bronze lions

David G O'Sullivan

The lights of the street flickered in yellow and red, Maisie pulled her jumper down over her hands and looked at the red lights above the buildings. She always felt relaxed and sleepy when she saw a red light; she remembered the rooms she used to stay in when the streets were too cold. A bar heater would be turned on, and it would glow on the wall. It stayed red all night. The girls would struggle to get a bunk nearer to that heater. Tracy came and sat beside her, and they both spent a moment looking at the bronze lions that flanked the steps of the library.

“Tony told me that if he could flog those lions, they’d be worth a mint,” Tracy said. “Do ya have a smoke?”

A smokes worth a dollar, but I have one for you,” Maisie answered, pulling two cigarettes out…

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My heart is like my phone

David G O'Sullivan

My heart is like my phone

I carry it with me always.

It’s scratched and cracked

I am always using it,

Looking to it for advice.

Old people look at me as if they’ve never known these things-

But they know.

Even though it’s different now, it is the same.

It wants me to contact this girl and that one.

Once I handed it to a lover

And she dropped it.

A nasty chip cracked across the top

But I can still use it

Only, every time I do,

I see the crack and I think of her.

In the cold and lonely nights, I know it’s there,

I run my hand across and feel it.

I know you have one too, I hear it in the quiet of the morning.

Call me so I have your number.


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The conference

David G O'Sullivan

-How do you discriminate between the staff?

He asked, leaning back in his chair.

The place was an old winery

That never made enough money, so now they held all the university meetings here.

-Why would I?

The woman answered.

-How do you decide who is good and not so good?

The whole room of people stirred uneasily.

A fox and a hare had run past the window earlier; I watched out the window

Hoping they’d return; I began to daydream.

I remembered the night the old man started to cry in my office.

He was telling me how he had cut down German citizens from his Spitfire in World War 2.

They hadn’t done anything,

He just had bullets left.

He saw them crossing a field,

They were old men and woman and children

One of them had shaken a fist at him,

He could see their faces,


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Motel nights

David G O'Sullivan

Listening to mozart on my iphone

at night, after a work conference,

I have returned to my home town.

Staying in a motel my mother used to clean

she worked hard at a hard job.

As a child I would spend hours in the laundry with her,

the smell of linen and hot air,

the cold feeling of strangers.

Tonight there are voices seeping through the walls

the same old sounds

that come with motels.

The road busy with cars,

the drunks singing in view of CCTV.

I wonder if I am paying too high a price

for a life like this.

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