This Time
David O'Connell

This Time

when she asks where she’ll go when she dies,
all her eight years surround her, leaning in,

eyes bright, hands on their knees, as if called
by the crack in her voice. And in the silence

after, as they shoulder in, eager for a sparkler
or magic trick, I know what I say next

will be a worm being pulled from the dirt
that breaks, half squirming deeper underground

and half carried back with these girls
who she was, until one made inconsolable

returns, hands cupped, to whisper her awake
just across the hall from where I sleep.

David O'Connell

is the author of Our Best Defense (Červená Barva Press) and has contributed to Cincinnati Review, New Ohio Review, Copper Nickel, Sugar House, North American Review, and other journals.