The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Ghost Dogs by Dion O’Reilly


In the hot summers of childhood,
we waded a mile in the river—
you, up against the current,
and I, down toward the sea.
And we screamed like bloody birds,
so before we met at the bend,
I heard your calls strafe the air.

And then we stood, face to face,
at a fattening of the river,
next to a beach, rough with granite and quartz,
minnows’ lips on our legs,
a cold ache in our feet,
shadows of water skeeters—
like bunches of black grapes—
flickering along the floor.

Suzie, I never lost you
through the brutal climb
of our twenties, our failed marriages,
your treks to Kauai, your plummets
down the ski runs of Bear Valley.
When we’d meet, you’d kiss me on the lips,
tell me Schnapps cured a cold,
say you liked waking up higher,
close to the sun,
so you settled in gold country,
waiting tables and selling real estate—
then, at fifty-four, you were gone,
your stomach full of bourbon and Oxycontin.

I still live on the same stream-cut terrace
high above the dwindling creek.
Your mom’s old house on the floodplain-—
sold—full of strangers.
I wish I could tell you how seldom
I go to the bottomland, how there are gates
on the trails, and the land, disgruntled,
sends up walls of slick poison oak.
How the herons lift and glide away, legs trailing,
their calls on the wind.

This selection comes from Ghost Dogs, available from Terrapin Books. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sunni Brown Wilkinson.

Dion O’Reilly’s first book, Ghost Dogs, was published in February 2020 by Terrapin Books. Her work appears in Cincinnati Review, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Narrative, Sugar House Review, New Letters, New Ohio Review, Rattle, The Sun, and other literary journals and anthologies. She facilitates ongoing poetry workshops in a farmhouse full of wild art and is a member of the Hive Poetry Collective which produces radio shows, podcasts, and events in Santa Cruz. (

Sunni Brown Wilkinson’s poetry can be found in Western Humanities Review, Sugar House Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, SWWIM, Crab Orchard Review and other journals and anthologies. She is the author of The Marriage of the Moon and the Field (Black Lawrence Press 2019, finalist for the Hudson Prize) and The Ache & The Wing (forthcoming 2021, winner of Sundress’s 2020 Chapbook Prize).  She also won New Ohio Review’s NORward Poetry Prize and the 2020 Joy Harjo Prize from Cutthroat Literary Magazine. She teaches at Weber State University and lives in northern Utah with her husband and three sons. 


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