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  • Toti O'Brien

Morgana; Microcosm

By Toti O'Brien


In the sparkle of dawn, it shines cream

and pink under timid sunbeams—like

a promise. Istanbul, how long have I

dreamed about you? Istanbul—he said

when I turned thirteen—is your city-

at-soul. It is where your heart dwells.

One day I’ll bring you there.

It is nice to have a dream, although

not all prophesies come to pass

(my grandmother never got

to buy my bride veil, no matter

how long she lived).

Now I cast my lone gaze

on the sparkling domes.

My plane is taking off. Bird's-eye vision

of buildings like toys, like rosary beads.

The European and Asian sides mirror

across the strait—their edges soaked

in cobalt, their lips rimmed with salt.

Like a wound never sealed.

Like unfulfilled desire.

Like the belt strangling Berlin

before the wall crumbled.

In the shadow of Rio

de Janeiro, Niteroi.

Sometimes, water

defines the other side.

Sometimes we do.

This was only a plane stop. I won’t

visit the town. Not without you but,

please, know I saw it, and its

double, beyond—which you

didn’t mention. And I am left

to guess if that’s where you

thought my soul dwelled.


Stamps were ripped off from mail

and then soaked in water. Overnight,

they floated like lotus flowers

inside porcelain bowls. When

the glue loosened up, they were lifted

with a pair of surgical tweezers.

A few were bought in shops, where

old clerks wagged huge magnifying

glasses. All were stored in leather-bound

books, sometimes stacked on shelves,

sometimes (one by one)

ceremoniously spread on her lap.

The entire world was there

and it turned as she turned the pages.

The Eastern domes, meringue-shaped,

almost tasted of sugar

and the Japanese girls, shyly smiling,

spun their delicate parasols.

How she felt herself shrink, compressed

like a whisper funneled into the thirsty

open ear, like a beam of light borrowing

the keyhole to the bedroom. Sucked in

by a dented square filled with beauty.

Eden lost, Eden not yet found.

About Toti O'Brien:

Toti O’Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish Last Name. Born in Rome, living in Los Angeles, she is an artist, musician and dancer. She is the author of Other Maidens (BlazeVOX, 2020), An Alphabet of Birds (Moonrise Press, 2020), In Her Terms (Cholla Needles Press, 2021), Pages of a Broken Diary (Pski’s Porch, 2022) and Alter Alter (Elyssar Press, 2022).


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