Emily O'Neill: Ode to How I Happened 

Emily O'Neill: Ode to How I Happened 
Filippo Ascione

Filippo Ascione

ode to how I happened 

once a month walk to the deli
for Orange Crush & the pound of mozzarella
I peel apart in layers / eating towards nothing

don’t make this a teaching moment / think
about your own head how / your gums leak
when you floss & when you don’t

when you open a wall / you’re un-bottling bones
tree ribs in there / secrets insulate / blood doesn’t
care what it takes to get born

how reflexes die quietly / hunger / the throbbing
thought / it kicks / I grit / if there’s a recipe
success depends / on the kitchen it lands in

once a month I shredded that wet orb
in my mouth / violin hall of mirrors
the hands pressing me / smooth

rings dropped into the sink / me
cut rhinestone / bones the only
occurrence / territory / that ugly

thing / my thighs narrowing
& this was safety until / butter
on my fingers / approximate maps

wishbone connected to the jawbone
snapped shut / migraine then
another harrowing / hunger

no light no heat no / sleeping through
tremor / I wait to swallow
a stinger / a flower

that smells like a carcass / catches flies
by dying / caused a flood
by opening / this is how it looks

inside my head: yarn skein
spinning around two hands / lightning
ribboned fat / what grain & hands

tucking in my lungs / did you see
me & want / a swan?
I can still take her back

darling, I want you but not so fast

I just got too lonely, so by mistake I cooked for two
Come over / I’m making Godfathers / risotto
there’s flourless cake to drown in / I can’t close

the door / if I do close it the deadbolt won’t slide
I’m telling you this in case of sudden urgency
in case / you have to call someone or tally every time

I’ve changed my mind / I don’t want to be this easy
( it’s not a choice ) have you fallen in love / with a way out
only because it’s available? As a lover, escape

leaves nothing to be desired / she changes clothes
three times daily / smells like coconut & salt
walks like a vacation / skin & I got too lonely

to stay the same / stripped the bed & dressed
the room redder / no staining what’s already bled
I’m telling you / because my bed is communist

because I can confirm nothing / on the grounds
I may incriminate myself / I want to use a blade
to unlock a joint / to be a man & carve dinner apart

as if I’ve ever killed & continued down a path / the ending
a trailing hem / I taught myself piano once, played
all night, then promptly forgot how to spread my hands

everything is fine / I don’t miss feeling useful 

how do I live

I found us a house for less / than crumbs
sticking to the sheets / all I am composed of
this morning, a litany of men

kissing me goodbye on the cheeks & I shake
moonbeams to proper dilution / write
the recipe for our bodies gone

domestic / don’t laugh at me for stepping back
from Colin as he sabers the I Clivi
because that name taken to a magnum

of Gaston Chiquet / sent a woman to the ER
in the room where / I lost my hands & glass
& glass still / under the skin astride my orbital bone

a scar / not the reminder I wanted
of ironed blue oxfords / of compromise
the flowers coming to me in a cab

like I’m some movie star / I don’t want them
or to tell Kevin I live anywhere / but
among bears I live / white wax

on the backbar & take the plunge he says
& haven’t we / already become a ghost
of former longing / this time last year

the letters started / fizzing in me
on the floor at Papercuts & now a narrative
starring / the original hardwoods

a splitting ax / your laugh / the car door
when it wakes me / from waiting / when we are
that fat caged cork / free & flying overhead


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.