And they’re off, or we are, or our shoes
at least. I’ll pay upfront. Feel the price hitch in my knees

when I clear the starting gate. Affair is a stupid word
for waking up under a new ceiling. What is a cloud

but an excuse to look up. What is a kiss but a shadow
crossing your mouth just long enough to borrow

heat. An affair never happened. February. Breakfast. None of it.
The city was confused, so it pretended spring. All museum bones

romantic, though I can’t say what kind. Cherry or warm
laundry or the hookah coals glowing like happy little gods.

What is a promise but thread no one sees until it’s broken.
Who are we to protest. When we were hungry

we imagined a mother slicing mushrooms
into a saucepan. Sweating the onions. Humming

a levy up to where we evaporated. To the open air
where we never happened. Where we wanted nothing.

Somewhere else, a promise. Where I took my medicine.
Where we clapped for illegal fireworks. I landed

lightning high. The script was less a script than a suggestion
for how to avoid haunting the next ten decades of maybe.

Drive a spike into the ground. Wait for it to draw a spark.
Fill the bathtub with water. In case of unseasonable heat,

knot the curtains back. Take the doors off their hinges.
Drink cobweb gin where you can get it. Say it wasn’t easy

laying down in the dirt. I wore too many clothes for it.
None of them fit. I’m no good at shrinking so I painted my face

in your mirror. Tied every stick of furniture with silk.
I never saw a spider in your house but I felt legs

grown from all possible corners. A restlessness.
What is slowing to a walk but another excuse to not touch.

Don’t answer me. I won’t stand still long enough.






ONeill_I was a lot of noise




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




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