Nathanael O’Reilly


After Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s “Hearing The Boatman’s Call in a Boston Laundromat”

When I was twenty-two, I washed blood-stained sheets

at the laundromat with the woman who helped create

the imperfections, kissed and embraced while dirty

sheets and underwear tumbled and tangled behind

the fogged-up glass door of the orange Speed Queen.

On Sunday evenings I took advantage of discounted

long-distance calls, stretched the twenty-foot telephone

cord to its yellow limit all the way down the hallway

through the kitchen across faded green linoleum

to the cracked concrete backsteps where I sat talking

for hours in winter twilight to friends who lived

thousands of miles away, watched the pink-streaked

western sky fade into darkness. I wrote twenty-page

letters with blue ink in cursive to my closest friends

and women I thought I loved, shared music and desires.

I walked to our local pub through the cemetery

singing The Smiths’ song as I passed through the gates,

drank sweaty pots of Carlton Draught, played pool with mates

at The Miller’s Arms. I delivered pizzas in a brown Ford

Cortina built twenty-two years earlier, saved money

for my first international flight. I spent sunsets

sitting on the rickety wooden jetty, listening

to black swans croon and cry as I imagined my future,

bare feet dangling above inscrutable lake water.

Irish-Australian poet Nathanael O’Reilly teaches creative writing at the University of Texas at Arlington. His ten collections include Selected Poems of Ned Kelly (Beir Bua Press, 2023), Dear Nostalgia (above/ground press, 2023), Boulevard (Beir Bua Press, 2021), (Un)belonging (Recent Work Press, 2020), BLUE (above/ground press, 2020) and Preparations for Departure (UWAP, 2017). His work appears in over one hundred journals and anthologies published in fourteen countries, including Another Chicago MagazineAnthropoceneCordite, The Elevation ReviewIdentity TheoryNew World Writing QuarterlyTrasna, Westerly and Wisconsin Review. He is poetry editor for Antipodes: A Global Journal of Australian/New Zealand Literature.