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Curated by Emily O'Neill

Category Archives: Curated By Emily O’ Neill

introduction to the humans of earth

             for Olivia and for people so unlike her they need the grace of their gods

1. we have spaces that are named. an example of such space is called the bathroom though no one uses the baths save for standing in.

2. showing our teeth means
             a. we are experiencing joy or
             b. posing for it or
             c. we are paying someone lots of money to look inside us,
                          i. to show us pictures of how broken we are,
                          ii. to give us papers telling us how much more it will cost to fix us.

3. we praise a man named Einstein because he named a thing called relativity which just means that violence, ignorance, genius, papier mache birthday decorations, dialogue boxes, manifest destiny, the hold feature on telephones, patriarchy, institutionalized racism, lace, grace, genocide, war, and beauty pageants all exist and still our* complaints and fears most days have to do with
             a. getting shampoo in our eyes, or
             b. our own money giving us paper cuts, and
             c. traffic.

3. * the privileged enough among us to be writing poetry after their day job is done.

4. we praise lots of women but I would need more asterisks to give their names.

5. fathers are people that have a specific type of sound to them.

5. mothers cannot be defined as easily.

6. sometimes, humans lose their voices when crying.

             here are some examples of people:

1. there exists a woman who watches videos of a crash test dummy opening and closing in on itself over and over again. she takes notes so as to cushion our future blows.

2. there is a man who aches over millimeters: the smallness of a lip on a saucer so our teacups click just right.

open letter to the gray body of a bird on the side of business 40

i have seen a fox up close four times
in the same night. she was pacing
the asphalt like the trail that licks the lake
was built for her. she was focus and fear; imagine
her babies in the bushes behind her, hungry.


because geese are so aggressive i avoid them.
because alligators exist i don’t swim.


how can i reconcile the amount of blood i have consumed?
how can i scold my dog for her dirtied nose horsing through
the entrails of the smashed up frog on the sidewalk?
it is a small, indecent thing: my arched back
over her bath, keeping my own body outside the tub.

My Collar, My Bone

behind my rib cage is a dog
with her head sticking out of a car window.
depends on the day if there is also wind.
if we end up in the vet’s
office or an ocean of grass.

I can’t ask my heart if she is a good girl
because she is not really a dog. instead
I can know this command: heal.
you are at this moment
as new as you are old.

people don’t know about how I lick
“1, 2, 7, 5, 6, 6, 26” over and over
under my breath to make me feel
like a human who knows control
is an illusion. Just some bones

I buried, here: the memory of me
telling my most recent lover I loved them
too early and eagerly; wanting
still the scent of my ex-girlfriend’s
shampoo, sniffing it out
in some stranger’s hair, that subtle
heartbreak; lack of canine loyalty.

maybe it is cruel but it is true
that I sometimes expect the worst
from my lover because of what old
lovers once did, what I once did
in the name of my selfish, sardine heart.
aren’t we all leashed to some rail?

knowing no sense of time, I will look forever
through my dog-eared dictionary to find out if
people know “nostalgia feeling like dirt
under the fingernails” as one single word.

we are only renters taking hammer and nail to our apartments

we pinned your father’s crooked backbone to our blank wall last night, pulling our fingerprints against the brick and plaster to find the old holes left behind by strangers. we ended up making new ones for ourselves: old song and dance of doing damage in order to create. we framed his ghost. we made him see through. black and white: his old xrays cut on that box of light I bought from the carolina beach section of craigslist. up like art, he was clear and simple and alive again. finally he was the kind of transparent you’d always wanted and needed him to be. neatly labeled and glowing imperfections. what a relief for you. he was smaller than life, than his own death. fully visible. in pieces. everything dated so you knew when he was this specific broken. when he was fixed afterward.

the rest of the night you were aching like our old heart pine floors underfoot. those scans like memories. like scalpels. like cutting your fingernails too short. I am sorry all I said was how beautiful it looked to have his bones beveled like that. I am sorry he was not so neat in his flesh. you have to tell me you are happy I never met him. sorry I never did. you have stories of him that are beautiful and fragile as rust. others that lack all air. absolve: lights have switches. forgive me for considering this as gift.

On The Anniversary of Your Father’s Death, Which I’d Forgotten

you say here is where i saw the black bear it stood
up and then ran but it was right here of course
I ask if you charged it or fled and you say
I put my car in park. we are on a mountain
you used to live on. we are going to take a picture
of the apartment that is now someone else’s.
everything is smoke blue looking out.
you don’t say it but I know you feel like dirt
under some child’s finger drawings,
waiting for the next pull and drag, erase.
that stupid nail clipping moon.
when you show me the screen of your phone
and it is your father’s death certificate, today’s date,
I feel like altitude on the inside of ears or a hole;
the space you leave in the story of the bear
so it sounds like you survived something.
On the way back down I look for them:
black and ash shapes to gasp at. we drive right by
because there’s nothing. I’m sorry I stopped you
from knocking on the door that used to be yours.

~*Emotionally Unavailable*~

Hello [patient name],

This is a courtesy call from your local clinic to inform you that you have tested positive for a sexually transmitted neurological infection known as emotional unavailability.

The progressive symptoms of emotional unavailability include: a boundless initial excitement at the prospect of a new romantic interest, the formation of an ill-advised ad hoc relationship with said romantic interest, an overwhelming annoyance with said love interest, and finally, the public dumping of said romantic interest. In the middle of the night. In the spot where the two of you had your first kiss.

While emotional unavailability is doubtlessly uncomfortable for its carriers, remember, it is always most debilitating for the stupid, stupid fools who fall for you. We suggest you begin to notify said fools of your infection ahead of time in a way that portrays you as emotionally unavailable, as opposed to badass, mysterious, or in desperate need of someone pretty, smart, and alluring to crack your hard candy shell of handsomeness and lies.

We hope you will take this news in stride, and start to practice some goddamn self-awareness until you are able to heal the gaping void that has become you. With a regular regimen of forgiveness, acceptance, self-validation, and maybe some penicillin, you should be able to recover from your emotional unavailability within one to two calendar years. The typical sign of a completed recovery is a cinematic realization that you’ve thrown away the best thing that’s ever happened to you and hot christ why were you so stupid you need to go get her back right the fuck now and tell her for the first time that you are actually capable of love and all of your love is hers right now and for the rest of time and always and forever.

Please call to make an appointment as soon as is convenient. We thank you in advance for your conscientious behavior.

The Little Deals We Make

The boy has been gone for five months.
I made a profile on a dating website.

This is all I get in three days:

“do u lyke 2 give hedd?”

This man has a confederate flag
tattooed on his neck.
If this is the kind who wants me,
I will kill myself.

“You like good books,”
says someone disruptive in his cuteness.
“Can I buy you a coffee?”

The boy won’t answer the phone. It’s raining out.
I made pancakes. What else was I going to do?
If one more burns or fails to flip,
I will kill myself.

My roommate, disruptive
in her spatula finesse and irregular work schedule,
comes home early.

Three states away, the boy needs me again.
Turning left in rush hour traffic is impossible.
Okay. When the fifth car ignores me,
I will kill myself.

A mother in a minivan,
disrupted by her children, lets me go.

A long drive home from a pointless fight.
Here is Pointless: If I cannot hold my breath
past the next seven telephone poles,
I will kill myself.

If it rains again tomorrow, I will kill myself.

If he doesn’t say he’s sorry, I will kill myself.

If [              ]
If [              ]
If [              ]
If [              ]
I will kill myself.

et cetera et cetera et cetera et cetera et cetera
et cetera et cetera et cetera et cetera et cetera…

Zombie Apocalypse

My therapist asks whether I have considered suicide this week. I respond:

So you know that scene in every zombie movie
where the attractive white male lead boards windows shut
and then locks himself in some basement shelter
as the zombie horde slowly becomes visible over the
horizon like tangible impending doom—like not even
a metaphor but actual impending doom—
and then he sits in a corner of the basement
with a shotgun and listens as they all bang
on the windows and rattle the chains and he kind of
has to just sit there and wait for whatever happens
to happen to him? It feels like That. It feels a lot
like That. Like, we keep adding all of these boards
and locks and yeah, I know I’m really honestly probably
pretty safe in here, but listen. There are so many things out there
that really want to kill me and even if I do not
think I want to let them…how am I supposed to sleep easy?

This’ll be the day that I…

While the last piano
knelt ablaze in the streets
The final guitar smashed to driftwood over a wedding cake
The last flock of violins caught,
accidentally drowned in nets meant for tuna

We smoked backstage
We pretended to be sober for dad
We continued to bob our heads like corks
like nothing had happened
like it had always been this quiet
Didn’t notice our voices slither down
our shower drains

The day the music actually died was sunny, peaceful
The years that followed were deafening.

Every birdcall unexamined another symphony lost
we tuned our ears so fine
we could hear the earth grinding its plates
while it slept like teeth

Eventually, because of the absence of Jazzercise classes,
society began to crumble
A global emergency declared,
We began devoting all our energy as a species
To finding the notes we could barely remember
the taste of

Scientists were charged with reanimating
Frankenstein orchestras from
megaphones and moon dust and coyote hide
the concert was a failure
so they got more funding,
and retreated to their hermetically sealed garages.

We sent space shuttles out to blank targets
Submarines to the depths of ocean trenches
None returned, each captain believing that
they heard the ghost of an aria reflecting
off the wide throat of the void

Of course we prayed
government mandated, but with passion, nonetheless
Underground internet petitions started
to pool souls for one final deal with the devil

Poetry played on loudspeaker at weddings instead
but it wasn’t the same

After making love, the unsatisfied
wondered aloud to the smoke on the ceiling
Where we went so wrong as a people.
if only some song, with an immaculately catchy
chorus, had taught us to love better…

When they did return, the instruments,
it was under cover of night. That morning
we found trumpets sagging from the gutters
Oboes melting on the front lawn

But when our greedy hands lifted
their long-absent lovers to play,
no sound came.

Weeping, we moved our mute fingers
trying to remember what it was, exactly
we had so desperately needed
to sing about.


“…rather loose and wanton in her conduct.”

           –  “Green Children,” from A Dictionary of English Folklore

I went home in order
to be unaccounted for.
The singing is the same

as the not-singing, the same
as the calm in knowing
where to hide:

in the stillness at the edge
of wrongdoing.
I memorize the dosage

so as to exceed it.
Two green children emerge
from the wood, are coaxed

to eat beans. One balks,
dies; the other turns pink,
learns to like it. She marries an official.

Her sons have surnames
& human skin. I came here intact
but that means very little.