Matthew O'Brien

1 poem

El Salvador

The rain broke.
Stars shone like stars.
The same Scorpius 
that looked down on me 
in the desert?

Fixed for millennia.
I migrated, in reverse, 
from dawn to dusk.

The night—
so black it’s blue—
embraced me with amputated arms.

Every man a machete,
every woman a baby.
Prison walls strung with razor wire.
The squeal of the gecko 
and the pan man.
A volcano breathes beside me.

Misaligned, I turn to her—
and correct.
Everything needs to be new:
the light, land, language.
The ring tone.
The iambic pentameter of my heart.

My tongue’s twisted,
my ears half-hear.
Comfort me in call-center English.
Say you’ll stay.
Say you’ll say.
(The deepest divide 
lies between two languages.) 
Make memories fall thoughtlessly 
on the mountains. 

The rain returned, 

Matthew O’Brien is an author, journalist, and teacher who lived in Las Vegas for twenty years and is currently based in San Salvador, El Salvador. He’s the author of Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas and My Week at the Blue Angel: And Other Stories from the Storm Drains, Strip Clubs, and Trailer Parks of Las Vegas. His third book, tentatively titled Dark Days, Bright Nights: Surviving the Las Vegas Storm Drains, is scheduled to be published in 2020. For more info on Matt and his work, including his charity Shine a Light, visit