Two poems by Emily O’Neill

BB Gun

Hard to say what startle
shakes off sleep the fastest
but let’s see—maybe it’s turning
over to find foreign clothes
when nobody’s been here
but me. Horror sliver. Face
reflected in a stainless knife
is another knife. Before the suture.
Apology, an ice-cored planet.
I drink a lime ricky & drip
behind my knees like sex
is coming. Not that simple.
Can’t remake a muscle once
it’s been plated. Sometimes you eat.
More frequently you break
the wedding china. Yes, we were
intended. But the future couldn’t
come. The future has a headache.
The future closes her mouth for goodnight
kiss. Stokes the radiator. Mosquito screams
between window & screen. Had there been blood.
A trophy. Ring to chuck down a well. Dog barking
for some missing savior. Down, boy.
There will be no rescue. My haunted bed.
My knee swimming in early thunder.
Pain is a side-effect of the past. Ask your doctor
if forgetting may be flight for you. Hurt
holistic. Pile on crystal. Pretend to believe
in moving energy with hands. With needles.
No smoke show or thin string. There’s rain
& rain & I’ll sleep between the pillows if I want to.
Possible the ghost is benevolent, but still
a ghost & causing draughts to float
through & carry dreams off on a river barge.
Number the losses. Another dog
choir shouting down hail. Quarter-sized
bullets of ice. If the love said it couldn’t
survive a winter in this city, it shouldn’t
have come here. If the love can’t curl
closer then we all howl. I’m kicking
the cold out. I’ve shot it dead
tin can in the yard.



self-portrait with sudden thickness

no matter how little I let / inside I’m grown / barked
up like a tree where the strain came / can carve down
every part but / the stance thighs wide is not legs open here
I’m talking the horror & heaven / of expanse / the dancing
feels worse before it gets better / before the shift & clapping
skin do you chap / just from walking does skin kiss & bless itself
every sweaty season / my mother never wearing skirts / my mother
taking off my lipstick & shaking out my hair / telling me to hide
here in the mirror / wall here hands on hips to stop the spread
why / do I drift like a continent is it my fault / all
the quaking / no matter how whittled / parts of me
will never smooth / who’s watching how I try
to break / the ripple effect / too much movement /
my body reverberates / pastel ambrosia / first tides
of blood & now this further flooding / how can I be
steel-boned boy when I’m spilling / over
the seats of chairs boiling / over the rim
of my jeans thieving / back space I’m too shy
to claim audible / sigh is it my fault I’m happy
not to shrink any smaller / that seams stay
shredding even when I starve / instructions
on hunger as a tool of fear / take this bread / make
meat of it / hunger or devour / I choose
the one with teeth / choose to stay full / I know
now how not to hate what width I occupy



Emily O’Neill is a writer, artist, and proud Jersey girl. Her recent poems and stories can be found in The Boiler, Powder Keg, and Queen Mob’s Teahouse, among others. Her debut collection, Pelican, is the inaugural winner of YesYes Books’ Pamet River Prize, and she edits poetry for Wyvern Lit. She lives in Medford, MA with a coven of feral women writers and their gigantic orange tabby, Roger Mindfucker.