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by Daniel O'Connell

My buddy Mitch was on all the teams:  

baseball, football, soccer, lacrosse, swim. I sat, 

top row in the vacant stands,

suckling 16 oz. beer cans, waiting 

for practice to finish

and Mitch to shower and lock up 

his locker, and we’d drive down Sunrise

to the woods behind Pilgrim State Psychiatric

Hospital, smoke a graven pipe, drink

spirits, stare 

into searchlight, speculating

about what would become of us.


There was a culture, my ex-wife said,

bringing a marriage-ending argument to a

sudden halt – an isolated African tribe 

discovered in 1955 –

that dealt with their psychotics this way:

they gathered around the prematurely departed

soul (that was the theory, the Soul had gone to 

the other world too soon), and made a circle

around the crazy man or woman and called in unison,

“Come back, come back, we need you, we need you,

Come back, come back.”  All forty or so of them


sang to the soul “come back.”  It worked, she said and

we cried together as if crossing the same deep stream

though our wedlock ran its course to ruin

within the month.  She was teaching anthropology.

I was getting a PhD in philosophy.  The story

was like a line break, good for nothing

except to slow us down.  Consider things carefully.

When the lease ran out, we moved out, without

a word, the furniture itself 

inspired by our stubbornness.


But my old friend Mitch and I just drifted apart 

as our saying goes, and for that 

there is no good reason.

About the Author

Dan O’Connell is a four-time award winning poet, and multiple finalist and honorable mention. His poems have appeared over seventy times, including in Mississippi Review, Homestead Review, San Francisco Reader, Parthenon West Review, and most recently America Magazine (Foley Poetry Prize, 2015), Ina Coolbrith Poetry Prize (2017), RavensPerch (2018), and Ghost Town Review (2018). A former Philosophy and Rhetoric professor, Dan has his own law practice with a focus on protecting tenants and workers, and teaches and writes about Law. He is the author of two full-length collections of poetry: Different Coasts, and Theory of Salvation. Find Dan O. at

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