A photocopy of my mother’s heart,
neatly folded, falls from the leaf end
of Yeats’ Collected.

Her cardiologist has drawn squiggles
and blobs to mark the arteries
blocked: diffuse 80%, 70% plaque,

more squiggles for the bypasses
the heart has patiently grown
to feed its urgent muscle.

Eggshells. Nitroglycerine.
The muffled tick
of a ship’s clock on the mantle.

Each of us will have a turn
at this watch, with or without
warning. Meanwhile

I’m folding away neat piles:
the scolding that most stung,
butterscotch icing licked from the bowl,

a hairbrush (knick-knack, plate of pasta)
thrown in anger ― the Silence after.
The trunk will be scented: gardenia,

garlic, Chanel #5. Meanwhile,
I collect figs from the garden, whisper
a decade of the Rosary, a Psalm —

the lake at dawn
a red-winged blackbird
rustles the reeds.

Title poem of Meanwhile (2011)
First published in America (2003)

Other Poems

Twilight, Ardgroom

County Antrim Archeology


Their voices

Vespers, Hunting Creek


O’Toole’s visionary poems explore the boundaries between light and dark, past and present, life and death.”

—Michael Simms

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