Liam October O’Brien
If You are Going to Stay at Home
fragments from letters to The Ladies’ Home Journal, 1904
The problem: a large city, dear sister
had exhausted and left me. When summer
came I could not go away. I could not—
I looked about me and thought of trees.
My husband, home, heart unable to leave
summer given up in the morning, home
hours the first, the next attending
to my household duties in the house I hung
after the lake another water
My husband took into the country a few
moments; the woods, ferns and daisies.
Abandon children. After a light we began,
and became so that we decided
to remain at home. Continue. Could hardly choose
which days. The next day. Rich and happy summer.
We Had Decided
fragments from a letter to The Ladies’ Home Journal, 1904
We had decided to stay
at home as far as
to dig and hammer
our first completed labor:
of rows of heavy twine
from the bottom vines
hoping eventually to hide
behind masses of green,
divided in half,
marked out with stakes.
Overhead a quantity of wires
trained my husband
a sort of latticework.
Our porch privacy for
A bewildering mass of bloom
in the arrangement of the house
covered the floors
the furniture with light
bore wood ferns.
The fireplace banked
with ferns and wild
violet leaves massed
occupying the windows.
Cypress and morning-glory;
vines of mesh wire;
fine screws. The vines
trailed, late afternoon,
drenching my husband’s
the flowers or children
a full stream—captured.
We were not lonely.
We managed other houses.
fragments from Dream-Life: A Fable of the Seasons, by Donald Grant Mitchell, 1848
Without a fair look at that Home—floating him out insensibly from the harbor.
Thought does not sink deep lines—as he leans—such sharing of his sorrows—nowhere
in the world again. But now you are there. The clock, that ticked so plainly when Charlie died—
the mirror which catches now and then—wantonly—heavy silver clasps.
There you seem to be joined to him—which will come. There is a little pride.
Tender of your happiness—‘To struggle with the world’—first heated and wrathful cloud.
Frank too has come in. Nor does he once notice your blush—
if he thinks at all about it—half-neglected—what kindness, what gentleness.
Few loves in life—love with your whole soul—for those loves shall die. You are floating
fast from the shady sources—into heat, bustle, and storm. They have no rule. They do not
take hold on your soul—Spring with you is Spring with them—wide shadows.
Charlie died—the fading of a shadow on the floor.
Liam October O’Brien grew up on a small island. His recent writing has appeared or is forthcoming in A&U Magazine, Denver Quarterly, The Boiler, bæst, The Bennington Review, and New Delta Review. He received his MFA at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and is one of the founding editors of Vetch: A Magazine of Trans Poetry & Poetics. He lives in Brooklyn.