Two Poems by Emily O’Neill



for Jeremy Radin

if the Ursas bless us at dinner

tonight let me tell you a new lie


about beginning / some stars pointed

at two boys in the woods


boys raised by wolves

growing up into an iron city


but let’s say wolves only

raise other wolves


until they glow between the trees

& build a city of wind where time lives


unanswerable / if ever I find a sky saying

history began in the paws of wild men


I will refute that sky & howl

another / will expand into a myth


regarding the difference between our hands

out the car windows & our hands stripped


of weapons, tools, skin / look

at all the bones left to glow


from the woods / look how

we mothered our hunger





down comes the cracked china

again. I told you to decide. sliding glass.

something to remember you by. I haven’t

walked in the dark since you left. ( I’m lying )

I’ve been listening to lowing traffic & far

as I can tell nobody’s coming for me.

nobody’s tied me with string or promised

pudding or pushed me under a kissing sprig.

those berries are poison, you know. I’m asinine

at momentum. worse with electricity. I get confused

because lightning makes magnets & vice

versa / you see, there just isn’t time to decide

who deserves to be spoiled. I saved you a plate. ask a question

& please involve physics. accelerate into the brick.

the noise will be cartoon / heart popped & locomotive

eyes. I’ve been listening to your clothes letting you leave

without them & it sounds like my feet burrowed into flannel

I wasn’t sure belonged here. it’s kind of like camping. you know

there’s a bear in the woods even though the woods are the yard

scorched when the fire got out of hand & the tent is your arm

around me like rough wool & the sting of tonic after an avalanche.

if I’d listened harder I could’ve heard the slope unwinding. instead, I have

this disaster diorama. toothpick trees. a bruised chalet. it’s snowing

again. what do I do? telling the story feels so ridiculous.

yes, a bear. yes, a fire. & then a flood of cold so thick

it floated us far enough from sleep that we can’t shrug off nightmares

of poison painting every doorway & the fish we caught but couldn’t keep.



EMILY O’NEILL is a writer, artist, and proud Jersey girl. Her recent poems and stories can be found in inter|rupture, Powder Keg, and Tinderbox, among others. Her debut collection, Pelican, is the inaugural winner of Yes Yes Books’ Pamet River Prize. She teaches writing at the Boston Center for Adult Education and edits poetry for Wyvern Lit.