'Body Count' & 'What Do You See In This Picture?': Two Poems by Dave O'Leary



was a time

I could not

safely go home because


was a murderous rage


contained there,

brought out


and somebody would have died


had I dared

to open that door one

more time.

And in fact two people

did die

there after


the lives

they thought they were aiming for.



Only a block or two from home

there were two

shapes in the road

and he recognised instantly

what was happening,

a Rorschach test, two deer

it seemed out for a stroll

in the glare of a street

lamp. What else would it be

at this hour?

But which hour

was it?

Was it

tomorrow yet?

Maybe he would stop

ahead to ask,

but as he approached,

the shapes, the deer,

the things,

they lurched

and zigzagged

perhaps seeking the haven

of the trees, the bush,

the shrubbery

of the neighbourhood.

But his car

zigzagged too

like there were mechanical levers

connecting them all and making

the two things,

the three things,

all things,


intertwined, the car and the deer,

the shapes, whatever

they might be, so that

zigs created opposing

zags and then a sound, a bang, a crash,

maybe even an explosion

and another test

of what was

and he said the word, “Rorschach.”

He liked that,

a measure of seeing things,

of determining

the shapes of things,

and this new test, the second

of the evening, or the morning

depending on the time,

was an expanding pool

of sorts that was oddly

crimson in the glow

of the fallen street lamp,

and he knew well

what it was.

A wasted evening,

tomorrow’s hangover

would be brutal,

one that might kill him.

The shapes approached

no longer

deer. They were raccoons now,

other things,

and they lingered over him

no longer

zigging or zagging

but staring

at things,

this thing,

the shape of him.

One of them was wearing

a watch but did not

offer the time.

He. She. It asked instead,

“Are you okay?”

but before he could answer

they’d changed again

into other


wolves now,

a pack of two,

and one

pawed at his shoulder

once, twice,

the other sniffed

audibly and it lingered

with reverb like a tiny bit

of thunder

and he knew

then, finally,

that the hangover

was not

the thing

that would kill him.


Dave O'Leary is a writer and musician in Seattle. He's published two novels and has been featured in the Daily Drunk, Sledgehammer Lit, and Reflex Fiction. His new collection of poetry and prose—I Hear Your Music Playing Night and Day—was published in May 2021 by Cajun Mutt Press.

Twitter: @dolearyauthor

Instagram: @d_o_leary

Website: daveoleary.net

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