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Toti O’Brien



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 recently appeared in the Harbor Review, Door Is A Jar, Pethricor, and Bridge Eight.





I have been breeding rhinoceros
in vitro, as you asked.
They took time to get ripe,
a long frozen winter.
When the eggs
(purplish, translucid globes
the size of tennis balls)
hatched, I gathered the fetuses
on a checkered kerchief.
You had said they would be white
(pale gray, shade of faded granite).
Perhaps, later.
Now they looked crimson and rust
bloody dumplings of raw throbbing flesh
I lifted, one by one
between trepidant fingers.
Most of them came apart
viscera like vermicules
squeezed out of frail husks.
Hastily, I tried to mend them
an old violin string
threading my bone needle
my seams awkward
knots fastening ends
like huge prison bolts.
As I sewed, I pushed back inside
those jotted hearts and livers
embryonic limbs, ears, eyes, horns
as if stuffing poultry for dinner.
Then I folded the cloth
tying up its four corners
as I whispered the first line
of a nursery rhyme.
Later, the doctor came
peeked inside the bundle
shook my hand
“you saved a life,” he shouted
in capital letters.
Whose, I wanted to know
but didn’t dare asking.


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