As you embrace the language of dreams
you may find that your phone does not ring
as often as it once did. You may have trouble

ordering a sandwich or giving directions
to strangers. As you embrace the language
of dreams you may give others the impression

you are mad. They may laugh at you
as you attend the pines on the merits
of proper posture or take counsel from a spider

in her net of electric souls.
As your parlance diverges from theirs
you may find the woods colder and the road

longer than it had been. You may, for example,
find it hard to tell houses from headstones
or to answer simple questions about sparrows

and rain. You may discover an eye in your soup
or that the person sitting across the table from you
is made of glass. Don’t be discouraged.

The frog can stop its heart for months
beneath the frozen pond and the shark
reproduce without mating. The days will pass

through you as light through oiled paper.
Silence will climb the trellis of your nights.
And when they come for you (at last)

with their warrants and their guns
you will be a shadow in the garden,
a basket of smoke.


My grandfather’s hands were small
nations of pain—flagged by splinters,
cratered by attacks from nails.

Every morning at 5 his hands awoke,
rubbed the fog from the windows
of his face, and began their daily hunt
for clothes, food, tools.

The war had torn the veins from his legs
but had left his hands unharmed—a trade
of hostages, a lapse in hostilities.

He showed me once all the things
his hands had built—bridges, schools,
front and back porches—the lumber
they had carried and cut and shaped,

But I preferred to imagine his hands
on a woman’s hips, her green dress
swaying to the band as it played Amapola

the sun shoving out to sea—
a cake with all its candles lit.


Proof of identity.
Proof of insurance.
Personal identification numbers
and secret pass codes.

Every day
we are asked to prove
something. My fiancée
lies like a broken egg
on the kitchen floor
and screams
“If you hate me so much
why don’t you just leave!”

It is all theater.
She doesn’t want me
to go. She wants
that I will stay
even when she behaves
like a child.

It is such a strange
silly game.
Proof of identity.
Proof of insurance.
Even the cottonmouth must strike
once in awhile
to prove he can.

Charles O’Hay is the author of two collections—Far from Luck (2011) and Smoking in Elevators (2014)—both published by Lucky Bat Books. His work has appeared in over 125 literary publications including Gargoyle, Riprap, Cortland Review, and The New York Quarterly.