self-Portrait, after dinner

no coffee yet
but I’ll call
you on metal
stairs up from beechwood
trees & I’m a pigeon
in the rafters what
do you mean a pigeon
I mean strings whine
into tall shadows wake up
full, my dress unbuttons
when laughs climb out
& we should’ve asked for
a carafe, the spoon bending
our reflection what do you
mean no one really wants
an orphan I’m walking
into broth, poisoning
the recipe & I’m a rumor
crushed in flour
hands who likes
the plates the fuel the best
corner of the pan & I
mean a kind of stance
the train can’t undress
I’m laughing before
I’m awake, no context but a sun-
plum a wolf a tortellini
blue & the hill gets rebuilt
in the process blue as
a feather in Retsina’s mouth
if she hunted if you enter
a kitchen with me
I’m rebuilding I’m
awake I’m tall
sucking butter from
my fingers, I mean
I’m eating again I’m going
to provoke you it’s morning
good morning don’t
you mean to stay until
it’s gone I know
I see you aster major
key the train leaves
behind no shadow

self-portrait, in which I keep my mouth shut

if I can immerse myself in the yelling coming
over the radio from Long Island I can pretend
I’m the one who made the house loud I’m the one
noticed then punished for daring to stand back up
after the first fist landed to call what I care about
the murder of good taste assumes we all have one tongue
I’m not speaking to you today nor will I tell the nuns
what they want to hear which is that my Irish family drinks
their secrets from rocks glasses that I wore the wrong shoes
again because we can’t afford to act respectable if ever
my jeans get too tight for me to run if we’re in the Downtown
with the man who hasn’t yet written the record for horns
fighting heaven out of him & his arm falls over me
& there’s an invitation to watch him go hoarse
in a glass case & all this when I’m calling home collect
because they forgot me again & I’m always walking
the hour back from work on the road with no sidewalks
then getting scolded for doing what’s dangerous instead of
the more practical magic of waiting right where I was left
so I do the correct thing for once & say I’m going
home to Jersey guess which bruises came from the pit
& which from where they pray for bitches like me
to turn a corner you can’t tell & I won’t either


Emily O'Neill

Emily O'Neill is a writer, artist, and proud Jersey girl. Her debut collection, Pelican, is the inaugural winner of YesYes Books' Pamet River Prize for women and nonbinary writers and the winner of the 2016 Devil's Kitchen Reading Series. She is also the author of three chapbooks: Celeris (Fog Machine), You Can't Pick Your Genre (Jellyfish Highway), and Make a Fist & Tongue the Knuckles (Nostrovia! Press). She teaches writing and tends bar in Boston, MA.

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