Charles O’Hay


The house is quiet and dark, the way
I like it, when something taps
at my window, far too late
for any grackle, too brazen for any
possum. Tap tap.

My father, dead thirty-four years,
stands in the cold, no hat on.
He wants to look. Not to come in
or warm up. Just to glimpse this life
for a moment, like a boy peering
through a telescope.

I hold up a picture
of his granddaughter and he smiles,
tells me she’s a smart cookie.
I ask him what it’s like, over there,
but he can’t say: a condition
of his furlough.

I want to reach through
the glass and hold him,
squeeze the tobacco smell
from the fibers of his topcoat
as if I were five and he just returning
from a business trip.

I want to catch him
like a reflection between two mirrors
just to hear one of his stories
about nickel movies or shoe shines
or how he broke his leg
while skating on the pond.

How his friends carried him
the two miles home
the bone pushing through the flesh
because they forgot
to take off the skate.

“You’ll be alright, kid,”
he says, and fades into wind and snow,
a wallet-size photo
as I stand, nose to the glass,
my hands cupped against the pane.


Charles O’Hay’s work has appeared in over 125 literary publications including The New York Quarterly, Cortland Review, Gargoyle, West Branch, and Mudfish. His two collections of poems—Far from Luck (2011) and Smoking in Elevators (2014)—were published by Lucky Bat Books. Visit for more info.