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Nancy Powers

 

Saying O
               Some critics speculate the word "O," as used in Hamlet,
               is meant as a stage direction, indicating a sound should be made.

 

"O," says the rumpled girl
in the doorway (not really says—
it’s more of a sharp, breathy intake,
her glottis slamming shut), and there
are also tears, soundless, except for
the little lapping noise of her tongue
licking as she searches the street
for her lost quarter. On the opposite corner
a gang of kids menaces, baseball caps sidewise,
hems of baggy pants obliterating shoetops.
Surging, they ignore a hunchy old woman,
her blocky black shoes firmly on the curb,
her cane already in the gutter so her balance
all up and down like that instead of tripod steady
begins to wobble and she says,
                            "O," (not exactly says—
it’s more of a little squeak, like a kitten
landing feet first after it slips
from the warm top of the big-screen
T.V. to the cold floor). The illegal Afghani taxi driver
who’s waiting patiently for a safe fare reads comic books
and keeps his occupied light lit until a slim blonde
in Versace and Manolo stilettos crosses the street,
arm raised just so, and when he sees her, he says
                            "O," (it’s more of a sigh,
an out-breathing of despair),
and he flicks on the vacant light, but it’s too late;
she’s already disappearing into the gaping door
of a limousine as a prosperous looking man reaches
for her hand and, sliding gracefully into the car,
                           "O," she says (in reality
it’s more of a worried gasp) because she’s
forgotten her coat and
                           "O," says the man (although
it’s a kind of disgusted grunt), because
he’s already late and the coat’s new and
it was expensive. "O, shit," she says, and he says,
"O, shit," too and meantime, the menacing gang
of kids jostles the old lady who says,
                           "O!" (sort of coughs it out,
not scared, mad), and the beat cop
who’s coming out of the drugstore where he stopped
to get some tampons for his girlfriend who,
that very morning, said, "O," (actually
it was more of a hoot of relief) because
she’s not pregnant after all and
would he get her some tampons? and he said,
                             "O," (not really said—
it was more of a sob of joy because
he’s married but she doesn’t know). So now,
with the tampons in a shopping bag,
he’s hot-footing it after the baseball-
hatted kids who are snorting and shoving
each other, as they cut and run
from a cop with a shopping bag full of
tampons (and a doughnut he bought).
They scoot down the busy street
and they all say,
                               "O," (really say it).
They say "O," and "O" and "O."
It’s easy to say it while you run.
O,o,o,o.

                                            (exeunt)

 

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