Oonagh Doherty


The sun was just the sun
bread was bread
birds ferried no symbol
of claw cuneiform or chorded message. 

Chopped carrots and home-made soup 
seemed interesting again,
like the smell of furniture polish.
Folded laundry became an important job, 
dishes were washed,
plants stopped withering
by dusty watering can.

Truth left lyric, coincidence lost meaning.  
Mist - which had implied
new worlds in swirled clearings -
ceased rising from the river.
The ruby glimmer vanished from the wine glass. 

By middle age, you build in small ways
balance your checkbook, sweep the floor.
The lily and the lightning strike
are for the young.
Manna does not fall most days
but your kids step from
the school bus and the door swings.



I was kind at night, believe me,
I knew how to draw them out, if they could be drawn.
By noon they were dead women.
Their disbelief – they thought I was in love.
Perhaps I was.  

Then she came, a virgin like the rest,
beautiful - as they had not been for some time - 
because after a thousand and one nights
my kingdom ran out of beautiful
and I made do with very young.

She was not afraid, she laughed, pushed my hands back, 
said she’d tell me a story.  All night long 
she sang, held my attention.  
Curiosity saved that cat, the first night
the second, the seventh.  
By the end of a month I could not do without her.

If you imagine she was cold, you’re wrong.
She spoke of blue djinn with giant penises,
late-gelded eunuchs loose in the Sultan’s harem,
her hands played the air with delight. Ali baba,
Aladdin, diamonds big as rocs’ eggs.
She never stopped talking, even as we finally made love. 

But that was long ago, and now I have the internet.
The world is full of beautiful, desperate girls.
Few are virgins, true, but money can buy anything.
Moldavia, Belarus, Thailand, Somalia
even my own country is repopulated.
Scheherazade’s stomach bulges over silk trousers now.
Since she gave me three sons her unveiled face is boring -
that vein below right eye has come with age
as have the trout-mouth lines around her lips.
She doesn’t smell the same. I flick
to the Romanian website. Tatiana wants to meet me. 

I won’t kill Scheherazade,
I have a fondness for the old bag, I listen out of pity. 
She was quite lovely once.
Now she rattles on like my mother.  


Oonagh Doherty was born in Scotland, and grew up in both the United Kingdom and the United States.  She is seriously interested in writing about cultural clashes, connections between people who seem very different, globalization, desire and loss.  She has published short fiction and memoir in 34th Parallel, The Connecticut ReviewCommon Ground Review, Evening Street Review, and Epiphany and has published poetry in many venues, including Margie – The American Journal of Poetry, Homestead Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Existere, William and Mary Review and Stone Coast Review.  She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice, once for prose, once for poetry. Her bookDurante la Tregua/During the Truce, a short politically-oriented memoir about living in Bogota Colombia during the mid-eighties was published in October of 2015.

Posted on October 23, 2018 .