Click on title to read Excerpts from the books:


Conscience Cages
 

                                                                               

Bridging

The recession drove

my brother's bookie

out of Detroit across

the bridge to Canada.

Proposed police department

cutbacks in Detroit spurred

more arrests to justify jobs.

Bookies were easy

but painful pickings.

My brother's bookie

was philosophical.  

He said:

I hold nothing

against the police.

We worked well together.

I hope they're not wrestling

with their consciences

about their bookie friends

and business associates,

who they arrested or chased

over the bridge to Canada. 

They did what they had to.

We were in disciplines

on different islands,

but we found ways

to bridge them.

We were cohorts--

but had bumpy times

on those bridges.

A slew of the cops

got the pink slips anyway.

Most of us bookies survived

the recession and the ensuing

police force layoffs.

We still have respectable jobs,

make decent livings--

just have to drive

farther and cross

another fucking bridge. 

And we'll have to build

more bridges to round up

some more cops

to do business with

and to mother-hen us==until it's safe

to cross back over the bridge

to our homeland: Detroit.

 


 

Conscience Cages

Patrick O'Neill's verse with its wonderfully "everyman" characters brings so-called "common folks" to a literary immortality that demands his inclusion in the pantheon of old and new great poets. 

--Del Reitz, Ed/Pub Newsletter Inago

 

O'Neill's use of language, pacing, and punch lines are equally sharp in three-line or three-page poems. He sets up a scene--then moves in for the kill with unflinching precision.

--Diane Montz, Arts & Entertainment Writer  Ironwood Daily Globe

 




Planet Earth: The Three Inn Keepers
  Fertile Flurries

Vanity and pride, clever
infiltratorrs into my world
of exploration
and endeavor, attack
me with tempting
and convincing
cultural productions
of established rules, laws,
customs, and tradions
that invite me to "retire"
to a supervised, leisure-coated exsistence
of comfortable conformity.
My extensive recon to prepare
defences to thwart
attacks brings me
closer to Vanity's and Pride's
innate identities.
Vanity is how I struggle
to get other people
to see me. Pride is
how I struggle to see
myself. Neither changes
the innate Me. Their strategy
is to eliminate "Self,"
the guy i should be, primarily
by assassinating Humility.
I've discovered I have
to fight to protect the humility
of being myself--ride
the winds, currents, waves;
trek the forests, praries,
swamps of Humility's vigor
and provocation--let them
propel me into my exclusive,
pristine world to explore,
discover, and deliver
in fertile flurries

of self-reliant action--
without the pride-tainted
approval of Me
or the vanity-tainted
approval of others.



Verse in Need of Revision

 

Some editor

told me to "hammer it out"--

said it needed

some straightening

and direction--didn't like

the irregularities, the turns

and stops that shouldn't

be there, he said.

And I tried

but the hammer was wrong--

like Ferrante and Teicher

with a set of cymbals I guess.

So I gave the hammer

to a greatful scholar

and caused this poem instead.

 

 


 

Planet Earth opens with the literal shattering of a blackboard. In the poems that follow, Patrick O'Neill shatters illusions of self and others in his usual no-holds-barred style. He rejects being called a legend ("Between a Canoe and a Dock")--  legendary people are dead or might as well be dead--and the struggle to overcome the label revives his joy in reflection. The narrator of the poems is true to himself, however hard and lonely that can be. He's open to blinding insights that come unsolicited from encounters with friends, family, lovers, and strangers. In the best of these poems the narrator tells compacted, intensified short stories--a son pulled back from the brink, a free-spirited niece who champions nature, an elderly uncle divining the meaning of life as he seeks water, a priest who cannot escape the confines of his faith, two childhood friends recalling the same baseball games in quite different ways years later. It would be enough that these are highly entertaining tales. O'Neill challenges his readers to more.

--Diane Montz




Disciples of Critters
 

Wag; Droop; Erect

My uncle Chet, who I thought-- until recently-- was whacko, catches me in a lie. I ask him how he knew. He says, Your eyes squealed. Work on them. If you're going to get through life riding with dishonesty, you'll have to whip them in shape. They're tough--hard nuts to corrupt. Give 'em hell. He laughs, then gets stern, jabs his finger at me, says, What's wrong with humanity is we lost our tails. Tails tell true stories. If a dog wags its tail, it's happy-- not sending an instilled response; it's not shamming. When a dog droops its tail, lowers its head, it's unhappy. When a cat wags its tail, it's unhappy. When a skunk erects his tail, it means business. It's not them; it's the phantom Feeling commanding the tails. We have too much control over our normally exposed anatomy. We need something visible that has a mind of its own--something that we can't command or control that will wag, droop, erect to counteract our disciplined, duplictous, wagging tongues.

My uncle puts his hand on my shoulder. Our eyes catch and grip. Tears come to mine; I don't waver; I let them come--hold steady.

My eyes aren't tails. But from that day on, I've done my damndest to us them to teach my tongue to wag, droop, erect the truth.

 


ISBN 1-59661-047-6
72 pages/$15

Over its nearly three decades of publication, Newsletter Inago has had the privilege of showcasing Patrick O'Neill's excellent narrative poetry more than once and has always looked forward to his future gracing of its pages. His verse with its wonderfully "everyman" characters brings so-called "common folks" to a literary immortality that demands his inclusion in the pantheon of old and new great  poets.
Del Reitz, Editor and Publisher, Newsletter Inago

 

In Patrick O'Neill's poetry, inner monologues and outer dialogues fold into episodes-vignettes of everyday living. He sprinkles his poems with gentle treatments of the wisdom of animals, the revelations of plants. His poetry is a veritable kaleidoscope of highly interesting slices of life. His empathic style touches the reader's heart-felt spirits while his offbeat wit and subtle irony produce provocative revelations.
Tom Bruneau, Professor Emeritus, Radford University


Green Broke
 

 Prologue

It was past time, she thought; thirty was looming. She'd go someplace where she could just be Shelly. And, yes, damn it, she'd hIt was past time, she thought; thirty was looming. She'd go ave the baby. She looked at her hands; they were trembling. A compulsion to laugh was storming her. She fought it-- struggled to hold on to her thought: It would be a boy. She'd name him Nepardo and see that no one ever pushed him beyond green broke. And then she'd show him that exit that Nepardo had pointed her toward years ago: that exit that--unlike her stallion Trakehner Rebel, more like her gelding Arabian Prince of Aura-- she had never been able to mount the courage to gallop through. (From "Exit." Green Broke. Page 8)

 

When she was younger and a tiny bit more foolish, she used to run up the path to dive from the forty-foot bluff, aiming for barely safe-depth area about the size of six or seven wash tubs. No more, she told herself. but then she crested the top of the bluff, looked down, and saw Trina and Eddie. Eddie was sitting in the canoe, poking his paddle at Trina, who was thrashing in the water, struggling to get to the canoe. Anger and reflex took over. In seconds, Sally was out of her jeans, shirt, and sandals. She was in the air before she could think about the danger. She hit the hole dead center, felt her hands and elbows lightly scrape bottom, surfaced-- and struck out for the canoe. She took ten hard strokes and looked up; Eddie had turned to face her, his canoe paddle at the ready. She swam close enough for him to swipe with the paddle, then surface dived. Coming up on the other side of the canoe and seeing Trina safely clinging to the gunwale, she grabbed the canoe, pulled it toward her, shoved as hard as she could away from her--then jerked back. Eddie was in the water. She began to swim with the canoe, angling downstream toward shore. Eddie was standing with just his head out of the water when he grabbed her; she couldn't feel the bottom. He out muscled her and pulled her away from the canoe. She broke loose and shoved her foot into his stomach; he grabbed her leg and pulled her toward him. He plunged her under water--his hands gripping her shoulders and one foot pushing on her abdomen. Sally thrashed and elbowed him; momentarily she broke free--then someway he got his foot hooked inside the back of her panties and pinned her against a rock on the bottom of the river. His leg was braced against her back, and, she tried, but couldn't turn to grab it or bite it. She struggled to pull out of her panties, but they seemed to tighten on her like a drawstring. She was weakening, her lungs burning. She quit struggling and let the river roll her to her left. Through the murky water, she saw Trina's legs and the bottom of the canoe in deep water, moving in the slow current toward rapid water and Tiger Falls. Then she felt him relinquish his hold, releasing her, but his foot was still entangled in her panties. She wiggled, kicked, pulled with her arms; her panties tore, slipped off--she was free.        (From "Tiger Hole." Green Broke. Page 117)

 


ISBN 1-59661-047-6
72 pages/$15

Over its nearly three decades of publication, Newsletter Inago has had the privilege of showcasing Patrick O'Neill's excellent narrative poetry more than once and has always looked forward to his future gracing of its pages. His verse with its wonderfully "everyman" characters brings so-called "common folks" to a literary immortality that demands his inclusion in the pantheon of old and new great  poets.
Del Reitz, Editor and Publisher, Newsletter Inago

 

In Patrick O'Neill's poetry, inner monologues and outer dialogues fold into episodes-vignettes of everyday living. He sprinkles his poems with gentle treatments of the wisdom of animals, the revelations of plants. His poetry is a veritable kaleidoscope of highly interesting slices of life. His empathic style touches the reader's heart-felt spirits while his offbeat wit and subtle irony produce provocative revelations.
Tom Bruneau, Professor Emeritus, Radford University


Lusty Lyrics of the Web

 Reed

(For Mom and Dad)

My musically talented twin grandfather and great-uncle unintentially sent my parents on a mission to cultivate the genes that my parents assumed they had planted in me. I went through painful years in junior high making more undisciplined noise than disciplined music on an obsolete soprano sax that my great-uncle had played in the cavalry band during World War II.  The other students made fun of the sax and me because the sax was straight like a clarinet and not twisted like its family-- the alto saxophones. I finally played bad enough long enough to convince my parents and others who had to endure the noise that those genes had decided not to move in; they had lost their way or found another home. It was after college during my early years of teaching I looked back on my soprano-sax years and realized the hard work and underachievement in music had been kinder, more beneficial to me than my above average achievements in academics and athletics. There is something about looking up at mediocrity and not being able to reach it that enlightens and exhilarates with its lessons. Years after I surrendered the sax to my Parents' attic, during a visit home, I went to the atic and searched through the storage till I  spotted the wooden sax case tucked in a corner where the rafters meet the floor. As I reached for it, I spotted a spider on a web attached to a rafter and one corner of the sax case. I hesitated when my niece, an animal activist and zoology major at the university, stormed into my mind and clamored a reminder about how important spiders are to the environment; how they've made invaluble contributions to medical and engineering research; how they are legally blind and rely on vibrations to perceive what is vital for their survival; how industrious and talented they are, not only in the construction of their webs but in keeping the webs finely tuned so that when friends or foes, potential mates, tasty meals, etc. land in the webs they send tunes to the spiders' feet that identify what's visiting. I began to empathize with the spider. Deciding not to strum too harsh a tune on his web, I carefully opened the box, lifted the sax, and removed the reed, the sax's tongue, from the mouthpiece. My

For years I carried that reed in my wallet, took it out from time to time, and listened to it play its swan tune. Like a concerned, sincere, musically inclined spider on its unique, well-tuned web, the reed sent vibrations that strummed that I-- a soprano sax in an alto sax world-- have my own tunes to play; that indicators of achievement and aptitude often do more damage than good and encourage us to abandon our genetic calling for something the culture decides is more important to achieve. We too often become docile children of the culture's mission, children who obediently chase and capture self-serving, destructive goals-- instead of goals that enable us to make creative, gut-dwelling contributions that--clad in our uniqueness, playing our exclusive tunes on offbeat instruments-- trek, hunt, track down elusive audiences. Then the goals inspire us to delve deep into our bowels and with all the energy we have share our music of sincere, convincing incentives to inspire, resurrect, heal--and not to expect ovations-- or even polite applause. 

 


ISBN 1-59661-047-6
72 pages/$15

Over its nearly three decades of publication, Newsletter Inago has had the privilege of showcasing Patrick O'Neill's excellent narrative poetry more than once and has always looked forward to his future gracing of its pages. His verse with its wonderfully "everyman" characters brings so-called "common folks" to a literary immortality that demands his inclusion in the pantheon of old and new great  poets.
Del Reitz, Editor and Publisher, Newsletter Inago

 

In Patrick O'Neill's poetry, inner monologues and outer dialogues fold into episodes-vignettes of everyday living. He sprinkles his poems with gentle treatments of the wisdom of animals, the revelations of plants. His poetry is a veritable kaleidoscope of highly interesting slices of life. His empathic style touches the reader's heart-felt spirits while his offbeat wit and subtle irony produce provocative revelations.
Tom Bruneau, Professor Emeritus, Radford University


Melt Off
  Snow Script

It's early spring;
the temperature's in the fifties.
My sister, the botanist,
points to the history
of the crime in the snow.
Prints, blood, and fur
tell the story of the ambush
and the killing
of her three-month-old Irish setter.

They came right into the yard,
she says. She didn't have a chance.

Coyotes will do that, I say.

She nods, wipes tears from her eyes.

Fucking murderers, she says.

They have to eat, I remind her.

She nods, says, I'm being unfair-
but everything's so unfair.

Or everything's so fair, I say.

She cocks her head at me.

Things kill other things, I say.
Suffering prevails. I look
at the gruesome history
in the snow. I say, The planet
snows pain. But like now-
I point to the water running
off the high snow banks
down her driveway-
it melts, goes away.

 

She shakes her head.
It doesn't go away; it just-
she points to the running water-
disguises itself.

I point to the prints, blood, fur
in the snow. I say,
A few more warm days like this
and all that will be heading
toward Lake Superior.

Yes, but the history lingers, torments.

Until you get another dog, I say.

She almost smiles, wipes her tears.
I think my pets for awhile
will all have roots, she says.
She kicks at the snow.
Everything fades and goes away,
she says. Yet nothing
really fades or goes away.

I make a snowball, think
about what she's said.
You're right, I say.
Snow doesn't go away;
it changes its chemistry,
wipes clean its pages, returns
to record the same flickers
of the planet's inanities. I throw
the snow ball in the rivulet
in her driveway-
watch it slowly,
reluctantly
join the melt off.

 


ISBN 1-59661-047-6
72 pages/$15

Over its nearly three decades of publication, Newsletter Inago has had the privilege of showcasing Patrick O'Neill's excellent narrative poetry more than once and has always looked forward to his future gracing of its pages. His verse with its wonderfully "everyman" characters brings so-called "common folks" to a literary immortality that demands his inclusion in the pantheon of old and new great  poets.
Del Reitz, Editor and Publisher, Newsletter Inago

 

In Patrick O'Neill's poetry, inner monologues and outer dialogues fold into episodes-vignettes of everyday living. He sprinkles his poems with gentle treatments of the wisdom of animals, the revelations of plants. His poetry is a veritable kaleidoscope of highly interesting slices of life. His empathic style touches the reader's heart-felt spirits while his offbeat wit and subtle irony produce provocative revelations.
Tom Bruneau, Professor Emeritus, Radford University

Back to Home Page

 

How Winter Comes to the Copper Country

  The Traffic on Highway 51 

Visiting my seven-year-old son wilts me
like a drought-struck plant.
It's the high of being with him tangling
with the low of leaving him that drains me. 
Now, traveling back home on Highway 51,
not to see him again until the holidays--
something he always gives me maintains me. 

I can't pinpoint it.  It seems to bubble out in color
and sound. If I close my eyes, I might see it.
It's Green--Virginal Green. I can hear it,
like music--Virginal Green Music--from the scores
of Innocence, Sincerity, and Honesty. I'm thinking this
as I watch an inky black move in silently, steadily
from the northeast. An interloper, the storm picks its way
to the edge of trespass. Then (foreigner to midday)
it inhales the light and spews sleet and snow. 
The traffic on Highway 51 hesitates. Some begin pulling
onto the shoulder to give the storm its right of way.
But, too late for one, it wigwags, smashes into a guardrail,
flips and, like a turtle pawing the air, balances atop the rail--
waiting for some miraculous force to right it, place it back
on the road--then it plunges thirty feet into a ravine. 
Several of us climb down.  We pull the child
from the burning wreck--about my son's age--
still alive. We watch him strain to speak, strain to live. 

 Something won't let him do either.  His face, stained
with disbelief, says it's too early--that he has more to sing. 
Then his face goes empty, dead.  Nothing Green anymore. 
Most of us cry.  We all say or think, "Children should not die." 


There's something obscene about the death of a child.  

Later, miles from the scene, at a roadhouse--
over a Miller Lite--trying to shove aside the recent obscenity--
I instead smash into something more universal:
Children should not die. Yet something strikes them all dead
in childhood--something that patrols the planet
that the Music Green threatens--that wants it silenced. 
It comes like that storm, sucking away the light,
twisting and jamming thoughts like the traffic on Highway 51,
murdering children, gagging the Music Green.  
There is nothing more powerful--nothing more invincible.

ISBN isbn 1-59661-014-X
43 pages $9

Patrick O'Neill's verse with its wonderfully "everyman" characters brings so-called "common folks" to a literary immortality that demands his inclusion in the pantheon of old and new great poets.
D
el Reitz

Patrick O'Neill observes the details and interactions of nature and human nature and in his poetry shares his unsparing insights. Like well-written short stories, the best poems have real people, conflicts, and revelations that delight the reader with resolving surprise.
Diane Montz

 

 

 

 

Back to Home Page

Root Zone

 

Retreat

I sit on a large maple stump
with my Uncle Kelly
and watch his words bump
through the cold air
like they're not in any hurry
to go anywhere
and maybe not certain
where they're going.
He can't handle the woods
without a dog any more
than he could handle it
without his Stormy Kromer hat
or Chevy pick up, he tells me.
He's lived through nine dogs.

The wrinkles
on his face circumvolve
his eyes, his nose,
then dive into his beard.
Tree rings, I think.
I try to count them.
But they're too busy working,
coaxing the words
from somewhere deep inside.

He says nine dogs is enough-no more.
The pain of loss doesn't run away.
It lies around, feeds on more loss-
gets stronger, more aggressive.
It's not age that's driving him
out of the woods, he says.
It's the attacks of that vicious void.
It's not wise to throw it another dog.
He can barely survive the frenzied assaults
the ghosts of the first nine have bolstered.

He pats the stump we're sitting on,
traces some of the rings
with his gloved index finger.
This baby went over
a hundred years, he says.
Brought tears to my eyes
when I had to put it down.

The words halt, begin to come, retreat.

I wait.

He doesn't mention his wife or kids.

Trees are tough, he says.
Self-reliant. They don't need
Kromers or pick ups or dogs.
Some sequoias, redwoods
stick around for 3,000 years.

Retreat ISBN 1-59661-013-1
47 pages $9

In Patrick O'Neill's poetry, inner monologues and outer dialogues fold into episodes-vignettes of everyday living. He sprinkles his poems with gentle treatments of the wisdom of animals, the revelations of plants. His poetry is a veritable Kaleidoscope of highly interesting slices of life. His empathic style touches the reader's heart-felt spirits while his offbeat wit and subtle irony produce provocative revelations. 
Tom Bruneau

 

Back to Home Page

 

Yaps

 

Big Kitten Lake

On the map,
Wildcat Lake spills
between contour lines
laced with access roads,
snuggles close
to a county highway,
and fills the corner
of a grid with acres of blue.

In the wilderness,
it's a sanctuary
for pontoon boats,
jet skis,
high-powered motor boats.



 

 

 

On the map,
an outlet dangles
Big Kitten south of
Wildcat Lake,
like a ball of yarn
hooked to the claw
of one elongated bay.

In the wilderness,
Big Kitten plays, hunts alone
in its forest-fortified basin-
repelling boats, motors, people.
Big Kitten clamors
in its solitude,
screeches its freedom.
Here, it's not a ball of yarn-
a toy on paper.
It's a miniature Atlas.

It carries the big cat on its back.

isbn 1-59661-027-1
63 pages/$15
 

Over its nearly three decades of publication, Newsletter Inago has had the privilege of showcasing Patrick O'Neill's excellent narrative poetry more than once and looks forward to his future gracing of its pages. His verse with its wonderfully 'everyman' characters brings so-called 'common folks' to a literary immortality that demands his inclusion in the pantheon of old and new great poets.
Del Reitz


In Patrick O'Neill's Yaps, inner monologues and outer dialogues fold into episodes'vignettes of everyday living. He sprinkles gentle treatments of the wisdom of animals throughout. This beautifully written book of poetry is a veritable kaleidoscope of highly interesting slices of life. His empathic style touches the reader's heart-felt spirits while his offbeat wit and subtle irony produce provocative revelations.
Tom Bruneau

Back to Home Page

 

Deciduous

 

By Hand

From a short distance,
I'm enjoying
a nude beach gathering
I happen upon
on a bluff-lined shore
of Lake Superior
when a man comes hurrying
down the bluff's steep path,
stands next to me,
beckons wildly with his hand
until he gets the attention
of a young blond woman.
He turns to me.
My daughter, he says.
Damn exhibitionist.
No respect
for the sanctuary of sex.
The woman rises and-
holding her left breast
in her left hand-
walks slowly toward us.
Before he can lecture her,
she puts a finger
to her lips, then points
at two connected dragonflies
on her breast.


They're making love,
she whispers.
I nod.
She tilts her breast to the sun;
reds, blues, and greens
cascade from their bodies.
It's so beautiful, she says.
It is, I say.
The man opens his mouth.
She puts her finger to her lips,
turns--still holding her breast
walks slowly back to the lake.

ISBN 1-59661-098-0
63 pages $9
 

Pat O'Neill's Deciduous showcases his poetic craftsmanship and insights- leaving the reader craving more. All who read it will long remember it.
Jikiwe (Ed Gray),
Editor, The Cliffs

O'Neill's use of language, pacing, and punch lines are equally sharp in three-line or three-page poems. He sets up a scene, then moves in for the kill with unflinching precision.
Diane Montz

Patrick O'Neill's verse with its wonderfully "everyman" characters brings so-called "common folks" to a literary immortality that demands his inclusion in the pantheon of old and new great poets.
Del Reitz

Back to Home Page

All Billy Hell

 

The Poem

The story
of the phrase's hatching
into the nest of trite figures
that sometimes flap
around in my figments
migrated to a remote site
in my early childhood.
An inquisitive friend
sent me hiking back,
flushing it out.

She was babysitting me.
Her father's handyman--
an old Romanian-
wary of her boyfriend--
said, Watch y'r back;
drugs have made him rabid.

She sang it to him: I luuuv him
to beat all Bill-y hell.

She took my hand,
headed for the door.
She whispered in my ear,
It's one of his pet phrases.
She laughed, turned, and--
like she craved its tone--
sang it again: I luuuv him
to beat all Bill-y hell.

His hand bade us wait.
It's a hairy way to love,
he said. You do anything
to beat all Billy hell
and all Billy hell trots along
like an obedient dog,
then'smack'
turns'ferocious, mad--
and wups your ass.

He became silent, sad'
twisting balled hands
in his eyes. We waited.
He finally dropped
his hands, shrugged,
said in a soft voice,
But, shit, ain't been
but one brief thing
worth beans come to me--
and she rode in,
like a bronco buster,
on my givin' 'er'
to beat all Billy hell.

I was there waving;
she left town-laughing.
When she came back,
she babysat me a few times.
She never sang,
only pretended to laugh.
Her spirit, like the story
of the stork of the phrase,
had migrated.
I tried to find it--
flush it, send it back.
But, unlike the story,
it had hidden too well
in the quagmires, brambles
of her misery.
I became weary of the hunt,
grew up, tramped recklessly
with the days and years--
lost track of her
in the quagmires, brambles
of my trek.
 

isbn 1-59661-134-0
58 pages/$9

 
In all Billy Hell, Patrick O'Neill observes the details and interactions of nature and human nature and shares his unsparing insights. Like well-written short stories, the best poems have real people, conflicts, and revelations that delight the reader with resolving surprise.
Diane Montz  

Patrick O'Neill's verse with its wonderfully 'everyman' characters brings so-called 'common folks' to a literary immortality that demands his inclusion in the pantheon of old and new great poets.
Del Reitz

Back to Home Page

 

Snake Spit

 

Redux

My niece, daughter of my sister,
the botanist, swings into my office,
announces she has just re-engaged
her ex-fianc'her third shot. I say, Whoopee,
another Extreme Home Makeover show!
I toss my hat at the ceiling-
watch her snag it just inches
before it hits the floor. I say, Don't you
weary of reassembling the poor guy?

She slaps my hat on my head, says,
If the second time around is better,
like the song says, the third must be best.

With the same guy?

It's not the same guy. I'm renovating him
in time segments--little by little.



 

 

So each time you get a hold of him
the less remodeling you have to do?

That's right.

But in the interims he must do a lot
of damage to what you tacked on.

Some, she says. But there are things
that I set in concrete that stay intact.

You ever think of investing in something
you don't have to rebuild?

She rolls her eyes at me, says,
We're talking about men--not houses.
There aren't any like that on the market.

No, I say. Those are a special breed.
They're not for sale.
We call them--bachelors.
Snake Spit

ISBN 1-59661-155-3
87 pages $15

In Snake Spit, Patrick O'Neill once again cuts incisively to the heart of relationships between men and women, parents and children, humans and wildlife and the environment they share. His poems are set in the western-most forests and shores of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, but the conflicts and connections                of which O'Neill   writes transcend geography.
Diane Montz
 

Patrick O'Neill's verse with its wonderfully "everyman" characters brings so-called "common folks" to a literary immortality that demands his inclusion in the pantheon of old and new great poets.
Del Reitz 

Back to Home Page

 

Children of Corpses

 
November Laugh

My youngest son--
hiding, cowering in a canopy
of drugs the last few years--
walks with me into a late
November woods--
where the diciduous trees
stand bare, vivid against
the snow and green conifers--
unashamed of their nakedness.
He talks candidly
about his semester at UWS,
where he's excited
about his classes, career.
He laughs easily at himself.
He's clean, foccused--
like the deciduous trees,
talking, laughing
with bare-ass honesty--
unashamed of his essense--
his brances, bark.
We're carrying a hand saw,
looking for a special tree.
About a half mile in,
we remember it's deer season
and we forgot blaze-orange vests.
We laugh, shrug--keep looking.

Soon, I spot it--a young maple,
half de
ad; it's the top we're after.
We take turns sawing,
knock it down, saw off the top,
trim it, grin. We head back.
I carry the saw ; he swings
the tree over his shoulder.
I look at him. a cluster
of seven curling branches
poke above his head. I say,
Hey, kid, you look
like a seven pointer.
He laughs--a laugh I enjoyed
before drugs. He takes it
off his shoulder, carries it
in one hand at his side.
It's a coat tree for my apartment
I'll put up instead of a Xmas tree
and use for the rest of my life.
And every time I use it, It'll laugh
that November woods laugh--
telling me that my kids
struggled, fought--survived
having me for a father.

isbn 1-59661-171-5
68 pages/$15
 

O'Neill writes with passion and precision of relationships between men and women, parents and children, people and wildlife, and the environment in which they co-exist. Like the best vacations that end too soon, his poems leave the reader wanting more. His earthy insights target him as unsparingly as other pretentious or unintentionally misguided folks.
Diane Montz

Patrick O'Neill's verse with its wonderful "everyman" characters brings so-called common folks to a literary immortality that demands his inclusion in the pantheon of old and new great poets.
Del Ritz

 



Songs of the Coyote
  From "The Coyotes Song"
(Songs of the Coyote)






Dawn:


The cold singing of the coyotes
was filling the night sky.
Series of barks intensified to squalls
and seemed to ride over the back forty
on a cool October breeze,
gather around her, and try to
intimidate her. But she
wouldn't have it.
Dawn stood and absorbed
the singing, allowing it,
for moments, to drive her
deeper into her melancholy.




Doyle:


He took his flashlight from his knapsack and began to look for a place to bed down when he abruptly stopped, stood still, and listened. It was the coyotes' song. He wondered if it was his coyote and her mate. He wanted to believe that. He wanted to believe they were singing to him. There was something about the  coyotes' song he couldn't get used to. He'd been listening to it for nearly thirty years and each time seemed like the first time. There wasn't anything frightening about the song. It was just damned penetrating. It seemed to speak of something so basic, yet so intangible that vibrated the doubts and the despairs that so often stretched across his mind like taut trap chains--something that brought a pain that was almost soothing in its terribleness. His father always told him the coyotes were gloating. Their song was a taunting song that told men of the woods that the coyotes would win the war that the men had started. They were singing of their immortality; they were telling the world they were survivors. His father-in-law said they were complaining-- lamenting the trespass of men on their territory. Doyle just liked to believe they sang because they liked it. It was therapeutic. It was their music. And they played it for the same reasons we play ours.  

Drawing characters so familiar they could be from your neighborhood, O'Neill deftly defines the world of polar opposites. Magnified glimpses of human experience find us swinging precariously by the tails of our collective souls on the pendulum between the lives we have vs. the lives we want. Songs of the Coyote stares unabashedly at the bartender whose tears mix grief in glasses of cold beer, solidifies a woman's stand against oppression through the whispered rhythm of an antique sewing machine, frees the heart of a stripper whose independence dances on poles and men alike. Whimper, pant, and howl as you resonate with O'Neill's stories and his knowledge that we all yearn to meld with the environment and the pack to which our hearts belong and will prowl restlessly to find it. 
Vicki Parker 

Patrick O'Neill's first short story collection conveys the same zest for life as his previous poetry. Given more words, O'Neill wastes none, and his mastery of dialogue and timing draws the reader on to each surprising end. (The kicker is that, however many O'Neill poems or stories you read, you never see it coming.) Story form lets O'Neill expand his characters and plots, which continue to celebrate the frequent pratfalls and occasional blinding joy of love, lust, politics, life-- and the restorative power of the North Woods.
Diane Montz

 

 

Back to Home Page

 

Pastebaby Black

Yeah  

Cradles One

The woman tells me she's never known a poor person. She says she knows she should make more of an effort to meet one. I just never seem to have the time, she says. She sighs. Life is such a struggle. There are always challenges, inconveniences, commitments. Like last week. I had to tie my new car up while they replaced the neoprene seat covers with leather so the neoprene wouldn't gather the strands from my fur coats. Now, next month, we have to decide on an architect and contractor to redo our south wing. In the meantime, I have appointments with my hair dresser, therapist- club meetings galore. And my dear husband insists we fly to New York for the premier of some fashionable stage play. It's never ending. One never has time to sample alien lifestyles.   She continues to glamorize her fretful existence. While she's complaining about having to return the cradle dog bed and the car seat dog cradle from The Ritzy Rover she bought for her darling puppy Jojoe, my mind decides to split, with the cradle tagging along. Images, feelings swirl in. Words scatter and scurry among them. I gather the images, feelings, put the words together-fashion cradles for them:   In Madison, a wino sits on a park bench, cradling an empty wine bottle, crying like a baby, while a humming bird behind him sips from a hollyhock blossom bobbing above his head. On a bitter cold evening in Duluth, a woman clad in a tattered afghan stands in a soup line, cradling her crying child, who's wrapped in a rug. There are others I rescue from the chaos, cradle in words. Then-silence- the woman rests, gives me an opening-a chance to put my cradles to work. But a notion crashes in- mocks my feeble fairytale maneuver. I listen to it. Then, instead of rocking my cradles, I nod, say, Yeah.        
Cradles Two  

The poor woman, in the soup line, cradling the baby wrapped in a worn rug, doesn't have a cradle or crib for him at home. He sleeps on the worn rug on a worn dog bed. She's only known rich people from a distance. If she ever met one personally, she'd be afraid she'd swoon. She's up at five o'clock cleaning the dining room and bar at the Moosehead Resort before they open at eight. Then she runs across town where her sister has been babysitting her kid to babysit for her sister while she cleans two client's houses. After her sister returns, she runs back to the resort to put in three hours of kitchen work. That's all before the business of juggling coupons, food stamps, and her sixty-two dollar check to try to get enough food in the apartment for the week. Maybe then she'll snatch time to enjoy her child for a short while before she cleans what she can of the apartment, mends clothes, and, exhausted, falls into bed. Maybe.   She, too, never has time to sample alien life styles.   Yeah.  

 

In this new collection of poems, Patrick O'Neill wages war with words against the stifling of the individual. O'Neill decries the tendency to cave to society's insistence on an unquestioning soul-crushing uniformity over the difficult, lonely, and occasionally soaring path of authenticity. In lush poetry that often reads more like spare, elegant prose-- these are even shorter stories than his last volume of short stories-O'Neill confronts bias and conformity. The backdrop for these poems ranges from barroom to backwoods to campus-the poet's favorite haunts-as his protagonists struggle for clarity in a cloudy world. From tick races to the meaning of a smile, O'Neill does not flinch from truth, however harsh. There is none of the saving grace of occasional romance of his earlier books here, yet the reader is free to take a breath when O'Neill's people triumph, however momentarily.
Diane Montz

 

Back to Home Page

 

Babies of Botany

 

Duet

(For Grady)

 

Sweat drips from my face

onto my hands. The buzz

of the swarm of insects

that storm my head

harmonizes with the clunking

of the hoe hitting the ground,

playing a harsh song

that tells me to

get tough, be angry--

sting my sulking teenage son

with words that will pepper

him with remorse

for his half-ass work.

I'm re-hoeing, re-weeding

rows of corn and beans--

showing him how

he should have done it.

I resist the message

of the insects and hoe;

I stay calm. I decide to deliver

idealism grafted to realism--

something too coherent

to weed the nutrition

without weeding the flavor. 

Pounding the ground

like I'm trying to beat it

to submission, I say,

The most beautiful thing

I know is to truly care enough

about what you're doing

to be able to stand back

when you’re finished,

smile, and say,

Look at what I did--

and feel proud:

whether you're making love,

hoeing and weeding a garden,

or conning a friend. 

I hoe with even more zest,

certain my hybrid words

are germinating

and will sprout

a perennial lesson. 

The insects and hoe

change the tune,

blast a fanfare. 

My son moves deeper

into the shade.

Periodically waving

the insects away

from his face,

he watches me awhile. 

Then he clears

his throat and says--

Or conning your father.


 

Babies of Botany begins and ends with death. In between, Patrick O'Neill celebrates life with zest, a healthy dose of cynicism, and a mission to debunk bias wherever he finds it. The book reads more like a novel than a collection of poems--each poem serves as a chapter that moves the story forward. O'Neill peoples his book with familiar characters: his sister, a botanist; young niece, an animal activist with high ideals; elderly uncle, a logger and philosopher. The poet punctures pretense wherever he spots it, and he doesn't spare himself. The only reason to put down this book would be to join O'Neill or his characters for a beer in a north north woods bar.       
Diane Montz

Join Pat O'Neill on a lush trek through anecdotes of human and animal nature, a richly scented exploration of familial life cycles whose gnarled paths entwine birth to death and decay, sprouting new life and re-birth. O'Neill's poems crack open dormant seeds of wonder and why, refreshing the reader with branching, inquisitive metaphors, stealthily invading our root-bound, shallow, footings. You'll find no artificial, placating answers here--just rough-hewn, achingly honest bites of reality, piercing the canopy of conventional habitat, allowing rivulets of free thought to doggedly pour through, reviving the subdued, wild truth that all of nature, human and otherwise, does not thrive separately, but is grafted intimately as one.   
Vicki Parker
 

Back to Home Page