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Toti O'Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish Last Name. She was born in Rome then moved to Los Angeles, where she makes a living as a self-employed artist, performing musician and professional dancer. Her work has most recently appeared in Superstition, Grief Dialogues, Reunion, and Maryland Literary Review.
Adagio
By Toti O'Brien


Recently, you have seen no large bird on the river
neither heron nor cormorant
those we have watched at length the last time I visited.
Perhaps they come and go, you say 
following seasons.
No, Mom. We watched them a year back
remember? Mid October, like now. 
True, between last fall and the present one 
things have changed. 
Then your son was alive, now he is gone.
True, the patterns of time have been altered.
They have lost credibility and shape.
Sons should not disappear before parents.
Young should survive old.
Since the rules were ignored, reality has frayed
and crumbled, unmade puzzle, spread of toys 
littering the nursery rug. But the birds don’t know.

Today I have seen two black cormorants 
flying Southwest, sun already at mid-sky
revealing and brash. They flew, focused, fast 
a business flavor to their feathery suits
shiny like leather uniforms. Like two managers 
en route to a lucrative negotiate
or a pair of gendarmes hasting to destination
eager to draw conclusions.
See, Mom, the large avians are here 
perhaps less ceremonious
having shed a bit of contemplative poise
and some lyric plume.
Flora and fauna have remained intact
perhaps simplified, less nuanced.

Summer has been hot and dry. 
That is why the water has lowered.
The stream seems to have lost momentum.
It flows lazily, dragging dead leaves, driftwood 
sparse fragments of trash rimmed by bubbling foam
past the next bend, beyond the bridge.
The stream, Mom, hasn’t heard a word of complaint.
The stream didn’t hear you mourn