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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
                        away afternoon

after the lake    another water
            another afternoon


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
every possibility
life extends.
My husband
would go
to dig and hammer
our first completed labor:
the fence
of rows of heavy twine
drawn taut
from the bottom vines
hoping eventually to hide
behind masses of green,
divided in half,
marked out with stakes.

Overhead a quantity of wires
over vines
trained my husband
a sort of latticework.
Our porch privacy for
the unsightly.
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
form—my husband,
the flowers or children
allowed delight—
a full stream—captured.

We were not lonely.
We managed other houses.

Dream Life
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.

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