'The Man With The Sad Eyes': A Poem by Dave O'Leary

Updated: Oct 24, 2019


He took her to a party

where they were making

out in the kitchen

when she paused between

kisses and beer sips

and said, “You have sad

eyes, sweet, but sad,

like a Basset hound.”

He took it like an accusation

though, like she didn’t want to be

with a man with sad eyes,

and before he could respond

to fix it, to challenge it,

to show his inner happiness

and smiles and

jokes and laughs—because

really, he had been the

happy-go-lucky guy,

at least until he fell

in love—the smoke alarms went off

and there was a panic

at the party,

a running with the bulls.

They were separated

and she was trampled

by the herd and then burned

in the ensuing fire.

And for years she came

to him in dreams

blackened from the flames

and repeated it,

“You have sad

eyes, sweet, but sad,

like a Basset hound.”

But it still felt an accusation and he

went to her grave and told her so.

He drank beers there, poured

a few at the base of the headstone,

even peed once, vomited another time.

But she kept on coming

and every time he got a new girlfriend

she would often ask, “Are you okay?

Is something wrong?” so he

would tell her about the fire,

the death, the dreams,

the sad eyes. And they always agreed.

He did have sad eyes.

So he killed them, strangled mostly

but sometimes bludgeoned

when they escaped his grasp.

He didn’t want to be the man

with the sad eyes and he shouted

it in these moments,

“That fucking witch cursed me!”

When he was arrested,

tried, convicted, the judge said

at his sentencing,

“You have icy

eyes, sir, and black,

like the asshole of a demon

in the lowest level of hell.”

And he looked up at the judge,

that frowning robe and gavel

with the wrinkled forehead,

the decider of fates,

and he smiled.

In prison he was fine

for a time, almost happy

as the man with the icy eyes,

until the corpse came

back, the charred one with its accusation,

and it started coming nightly

and during naps and daydreams

and sometimes when fully awake

as he began to fear sleep.

After he hung himself

two guards found him,

loosened the noose,

dropped his body to the floor.

“Look at his eyes,”

one of them said,

“The ones that do this,

nothing but sadness there.

Damn shame that.”

“Or not,”

the other guard said.


Dave O'Leary is a writer and musician living in Seattle. He's had two novels published (The Music Book, Booktrope, 2014 and Horse Bite, Infinitum, 2011) and has had prose and poetry featured in Slate.com, the Portland Book Review, Vamp Cat Magazine, Turnpike Magazine, Line Rider Press, Cajun Mutt Press and others. Both of his novels featured poetry mixed in with the prose, and now he is at work on his first full-length collection of poetry. Twitter: @dolearyauthor. Instagram: @d_o_leary

190 views0 comments