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  November 2017
volume 14 number 2
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  home   (archived)
  Philip Kobylarz
  Toti O'Brien
  Iris N Schwartz
  Julia Stein
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Toti O'Brien
November 2017



art by dl warner

    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 Gyroscope, Mizmor Anthology, Parentheses, and Crossways.
Toti O'Brien




    I have been researching last names. Mother’s first. It goes back to ancient times and has two separate roots—one signifying friend, the other god. Though (if I keep diving) the same cluster of sound means good, which is just as well. Friends of god, friends of goodness, were they also good friends? I suspect the name only indicates a sort of gentility. I am slightly suspicious of such virtue.
    A painter bore this appellative, who passed down in history. Not too famous, a portrayer of saints and madonnas in late Middle Age.


    Then I search for Father’s last name, which defines a trade and doesn’t hint at nobility. I look for folks who shared it throughout the centuries. There’s a well-known musician. He grew up in an orphanage, but his talent led him forwards and up. His first name was also my dad’s.
    I discover as well a mafioso, followed by a corrupted politician. I cringe. Then a poet/union activist/railroad-workers-hero evens up the sorts.
    Wait. I just found one more item in the list.

    It’s a forest. Yes, a forest is named like my father, can you believe it? No one I know knows this forest. It was man-made on the year Dad was born, in order to save a region from some ecologic plague. Through the forest, the area started breathing again: those trees became its lungs. It is huge, very quiet, only hosting a small hermitage. Otherwise humans don’t stride around.
    No one I know knows this forest. I’m not sure of our relationship, beside the homonymity, but I recognized it on the spot. When I saw the picture I started breathing as well, as if finding long-lost lungs. Those trees have Father’s age. I suppose I could be their daughter, or niece. Likely the forest is my aunt. We are still very close.
    But unlike an aunt, or Dad himself, I won’t worry about losing and grieving it. The trees will survive me. Though they grow half a planet away, they’ll take me when I'll pass. I will pass straight into my forest, where I namely belong.

    Daddy’s name also starts with letter F. Now it all sounds so kin, so congenial. Father. Forest. Finally. Free.

copyright 2017 Toti O'Brien