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Caitlyn O’Flaherty

About the Poet

Caitlyn O’Flaherty is a recent graduate of St. Mary's College of Maryland, where she studied English and Religious Studies. She is currently the editorial intern at Trail Runner Magazine in Carbondale, Colorado and has aspirations of much more international things.

She has a deep and therapeutic love of words. For fun, she runs up mountains, listens to NPR, and travels to far away places to seek and spread wonder. She also dog ears book pages, still believes in letter writing, and frequently hugs trees.

Spring 2013 Poems »

I want to be a deer in a field.
I want to kiss your mouth like I see your hands
come from behind
to touch my ribs and then my stomach
in the mirror
so I know the doorknob is as far away as any
home we’ve ever come from. I want
to be a deer in a field and watch
us, running, free like rays free
like gravity free like fall,
it’s a season this
love, it’s a flooding in
my veins it’s a penetration, you
on me on sheets with creases
talking about years like moments
and moments like they’re permanent
like they freeze in headlights
like trembling hands are treble clefs
dividing the space between us into measures
and rests.
I want to stare at you across the table
because our elbows are touching
and we know that’s how you can tell
how deep inside someone you reach;
the creases in the map are wearing out and tearing.
There is no one who imprints on me
like you. I follow
bent, double yellow lines.
You take your shirt off in the car and
so I stand up and we tell ourselves that connections
are about letting go.
I see the horizon and the sea, you scream
it smells like honesty,
it smells like salt.
We wear our underwear while we burn
the poems that we wrote to each other.
I ask you if you wrote about the sun because
I didn’t but it started shining and
I had to squint. I touch your forearms
as if they are fragile since I can’t see you
any better than the seat or the windshield.
You ask me if I wrote about elephants,
so we talk about that for a while,
without ever really talking about it.
We take our shirts off in the car and drive faster than the signs.
I say “Let’s do this together.” You run
callused fingers through your hair
and pull.
You are the air that closes my eyes
the wind the sound of rushing
you are the anchor you are my hand
I turn it over
you are the wrinkles you are the hanger you are the windmill
the picture frame the smoking engine the bald man
who I will never meet
you are the vacancy sign you are the curb
you are the fire hydrant you are the toe truck
I am the rest stop you are asleep again.
This was never more than a poem,
caught on fire.
We are ashes,
dust, stained t-shirts in the wind on a highway,
I don’t remember which.



I. Step, speechless but for a wooden crunch
and shiver to rupture the hush
of a flurry, white on light flickers and I don’t blink.
I encourage you to holler if,
for familiarity with drab, traffic, and city life,
you can’t remember how to yawp.
Crawl on callous free knuckles
stomp, stain, and claim rugged independence.
Pull wool socks above your ankles, warm
yourself with honest thinking
and feeling truly that humanity is
instinctive, a natural thing.
Yarn scarves above your mouth
remind you that quiet is key,
and let your skin stir.
There is no such thing as dead.
There are only cycles. There is only this moment
when you realize you keep yourself together.
Bound, whole. Absorbing, semi permeable.
You see the curtains of the sky peripherally,
and they beg the questions
of things divided, and things ignored by focus.

Rays of sunlight strike the ground on occasion
and particles caught in the beams are granted sudden royalty.
They don’t float, or drift or hover.
They glide, waltz, and revel. They turn twist, tip pour.
They grin and make broad sweeping motions to get my attention.
These are not moments for letting go of
they know,
they are meant for multiplication and thrones.

Leftover leaves quake in grateful chills, saved by chance location
from harsh realities of seasonal austerity,
revealing themselves
stark naked and hanging
on low branches,
guarded from the views of magnificence
given to those that cap and crown the tops of the tall and prodigious.
This is what it’s like to be in the middle.
Protected, forgotten, alive,
stubborn, immobile, displaced.

I peer inside blades, down veins before passing, to see both
floating and crumbled reflections, projections
dazzling sunshine, a seed
in good company again once
green and growing, bark rapture climbs outward
in the future, before the frost.

II. Blank branches cast wiry metallic shadows
on previously uninterrupted ground
now a mess of muddied slush
and the lovingly placed tracks of hand me down boots

Internal dialogue trickles and transforms
into sound,
and the silence eavesdrops when I say
I only want to climb, old mountain, friend.
I never wanted you to move.

Anxious wind whispers and quarter notes pitch
on the hillside, unbridled, aloft.
For a moment I feel with conviction,
the words a sparrow tells me quickly,
“Rise! The air is rising! All things, with this, will come.”
Angry wind barks and presses on the impending dusk as
the sun sits carefully down on the horizon, sliced by the wire where it lies.
The bitter air bites at my face and fingertips, the wind
exposes its teeth, small and sharp but whiter than pearl and paper.
I am glad for things
certainly not dear to most.

I weigh this contrast of barren, numeric temperature
and the shifting climate of elevation
as I cradle snapped kindling
thirsty for the tongues of flame.
The ground hums raw and melodic beneath my spine.
I am supported.
I am discovered here
teeming with connection
the penetration of needles and tireless questioning.

So I sit on crater-ridden rocks and wonder how the paint gets on the leaves.
Fertile seas and Greek olives intertwined,
maybe it is strange storylines and weaving,
and the way walking gives me time to nurture connections.
I see crops and reaping
harvest and October, walking,
but also in this cycle, in me, there dwells consequence, and blurring,
and flaking embers for orange burning,
leaking poinsettias.
red is iron rust and cherry trees.
Meteors leave golden dust.
Hibernating bears tattoo their dens in sleep,
so russet brown spills out of caves on mountainsides.
Black ash in fire pits and
an unruffled but looming blanket of white weather introduces
the familiar confusion of a winter gray
that could cover things like elephants.

But where are we on the pallet,
our shades of deviance and glee?
Teal tapers toward the corners of the sky. I
watch it redirect its luster, following the snow, starting now,
like a boy chases a girl in crisscrossing knee socks
around a playground in May, sticky
with popsicle slime and the insults of innocent affection,
I build similes and compare the clouds to these,
the many cadenced shapes of countryside.

III. Ice hangs from the faces of rocks and
points menacingly toward the ground.
Sharp, futile, and finally cracked.
A weapon only until the unwelcome sun
brings its timely disappearance.
Moving water propelled by sheer force of will,
and perhaps a fruitlessly recurring search for warmth,
falls down a frozen cascade,
thrown through teeth of hoarfrost
and occasionally finds itself trapped
in pools unmoving
enveloped by the marrow of the core.

The winter is a bone
and I am unbroken, standing, watching water, still
where it will be mourned until spring comes,
It too a rotation,
It too, waiting.


If I had to put it into words

like, getting the wind knocked out of you,
by a breeze in the Mediterranean,
as you sit in the warm wooden crease of a sailboat, becoming
a point on the horizon,
like the dead man’s float, lying on your back
like leaning on bark to feel the indents on your spine,
like counting stars until you’re asleep
like falling asleep without noticing

like telling the waves to stop crashing, like jumping off the swing when its almost parallel,

like a piece of paper in a hurricane,
how I can’t read the parts that are dripping, like the tipping,
secret like the downpour, like being wrung out, like watching the storm clouds move in when they look like a mountain range

like being saturated and acidic, and refreshing and clear, like India in the streets in the first monsoon of the season
like a long and crossed out list, like the silver outlines
of submerged rocks, like openness and broken locks
like relief, on a topographic map,

like maple syrup coming from sap, like having a secret
about happiness or honeysuckles, in between your teeth,
like smiling in front of anyone,
like shouting on tables in crowded restaurants,

like jumping down the stairs onto a pile of mattresses, where it smells like lint and cinnamon, like Macintosh, like home,
like the sunshine tint of untouched snow
like the directive freedom of possibility

like Saturday morning, like hours on your fingertips, like Saturday night becoming Sunday morning, like hand lotion and grandmothers
who are conjured by hand lotion,
like deep breaths

like those pink sunglasses and that trick with the penny you never could quite figure out no matter how many times you shook your head
to find hidden change
like knowing there are things you don’t know about yourself,
like acceptance,
like Savasana

like wet grass like skipping stones, like sounding stupid like screwing up, like saying I screwed up, like saying I’m sorry or I’m not ashamed, like being unshackled, defenseless, awake
like saying I’m hungry like trying to bake, like knowing there’s something worth having at stake
like hammers, like bandanas, like the view from the rooftop,
like Chicago’s cerulean jazz,

like writing every detail down, like licking your fingers, like melting
into muscle burn, like generating heat
like saying what you mean
and not thinking of it later

like speaking in knotted tongues, like tripping into the silk of cherry blossoms, like understanding, like understating
like the sea where I find my wings, like the number of feet in a parade, like hearing the subway like a low and steady beat.

like a hammock, tied to the rafters, aren’t we suspended that way?

like the rugs in front of fire places,
like the sound of water in tight places, like trickling, slowly

like dirt beneath your fingernails, like your feather fingers tracing me, like losing track of time, like noticing your fingernails, like forgetting about time, like being untraceable

like listening to live albums where you can hear people coughing and clapping and saying “my god” out loud,
like laughing on the sidewalk, all alone
like chalk that makes you feel like an artist
like chalk that makes you an artist

like thunder cracks that shake the desk that covers my knees and reminds me that the world echoes. it’s supposed to scare you, its supposed to revive you, its supposed to rock you at night.

like a hundred billboards on a northbound highway reminding you of rain and pain and the way they can both destroy and the way they both bring new life

like a sunrise pallet on an easel made of redwood, still standing, like the way the earth sometimes tastes like the word hallelujah, like the way the fog refuses form and reuses moisture

like breathing heavy before anyone wakes up, like home cooked dinner and Dixie cups

like lying on your stomach on the edge of the cliff, like the view like the fall like the earth quaking like the earth taking its sweet time like the earth, like this, like the sweetness of time


Caitlyn O’Flaherty ~
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