Fling


By Elizabeth O’Brien

I’m twenty-one and vain and I don’t care about security, it doesn’t concern me
this September morning when we wake in a dismal sweat of telephones
ringing, news on TV. Tragedy
is something else,

I’ll know it when I see it. The electric fans push hot air onto our twining legs,
I don’t care about anything. Your disbelief. Nothing
can possibly change me. The sky
so fresh

on the way to breakfast. What does it mean
if two buildings fall down? Nothing
to me. We all have our problems.
Look at me.

You’re thirty-six, free
of someone you say you don’t love. You don’t say
if you love me but I love how
you look at me.

I wind around bar stools
in a little dress. It’s red
and I say I have a motorcycle and you
order rounds,

hang your eyes on me. You’re so pleased I let you
take me
home and
I love that. 

I stand in front of the news boxes
on the sidewalk,
my hair flipped back, the neckline of my shirt
War on

cut to my shoulder,
my jeans
tight
like a comic book artist inked them on

begging, look at me
instead.
At the bookstore
you buy me
a paperback, The Great Gatsby.

I’ve read it already—I know
how it ends.
I swim through beery night air
in striped stockings.

I step into the street in front of your car, laugh
when your brakes squeal and as you drive me home
I feel your pulse
rising

across the seats. Time is spanning
forward but I don’t care
if we go our ways,
lose touch

if years from now I’ll hear you’ve gotten married, had a baby and
by then it will all have hit me thrice as hard
Why should I care.
Only years from now

all of it
will be permeable. The newscasts,

buildings, clips. Everywhere
debris and smoke. 
Circles
of soft wax

on sidewalks. Candles left to burn
overnight and

the tight pan

of your arm
draping mine.

The fleet tangle
of us

in pause
without a care

before we wake.


Elizabeth O’Brien lives in Minneapolis, where she earned an MFA at the University of Minnesota. Her work—poetry and prose—has appeared in journals including New England ReviewThe RumpusDiagram, Radar PoetryPANK, and Cicada. Her chapbook, A Secret History of World Wide Outage, is forthcoming from Diode Editions (2018)

 photo by Jonathan Henig

photo by Jonathan Henig