self-portrait, time lapse


scalp excavated (sink
at hall’s end) pale monk
bambi-eyed & round, freckle
hydrangea, chandelier
earrings & stubble, kohl
where I crease, stiff bristled
toothbrush, feel how clean
shedding a history pretends I am
how clean it comes back until
henna then bleach then black
then the razor’s return, me
little lovebird exploding, classic
little rebellion, more paint & a sneer, pressed
powder, deep tan, acid green when
it washes out, always washing
out until the soap stopped, pomade,
stolen cologne, blonde again & slick
as custard (too sweet) the razor again
the wigs the blue to the bottom of my ribs
yes you can count each key yes
they’re only for display don’t play
unless you want me to interrupt (I will
interrupt the shedding) I bought a brush
teased the crown until a hive until
the honey came back what a dark
tide when expecting silver, a tide ending
in sea foam (don’t stay, you’ll drown) so long
it splits halfway down the shaft so long
that when the door locks behind me
I hang head out the window, climb down

I’ve broken hearts / slept the same


the sorry song follows us / little dubstep banshee

twisting through the too late / must be dead

as meat drifting off the bone



perfect char perfect spice / hanging

mid-palate slow spreading heat / stories

you shouldn’t hear about harm / thrown



negroni to unlock / what there is to laugh

through / make me soak my feet / make me say

when I’ve been a watch / when I’ve closed the oven



on my own hand / what is there to trust in filling & how

long it took me to deserve gloved hands / care / a note

at the top of the ticket / what can’t touch



without causing some disaster / I take over

the seeking & the song plays on every station / trying

for slow sweet return / would you believe waning



how he said he’d be home from Korea / when I said

I was in love / when I said I wasn’t waiting / the vinegar

is this: I’ve been property / stolen / I’ve walked



off the farm unsupervised / cow, unmilked / heirloom

tomato in a pocket / it’s too late to apologize for stealing

me back from fate / worse than fur in a fridge



wanted but never worn / make me say what new

leaving afforded / dinner for one cooked twice, then

shared with whomever becomes necessary

dear you


dear butter / dear ginger / dear rope

tongue & scald / dear times we could’ve

kissed at the movies across our popcorn / every ask



left without indulgence / dear guava

hitting uvula / dear broken shark

trivia fact / Gotye alarm clock / dear



leave me alone in your bed when you go

pick up the coffee / dear turning into the skid / double

black diamond / grown up half-thawed / dear snow



in my teeth / dear face when your beard freezes / dear

winter missing Genji / dear hip, lip, you sprawled

across my lap / dear bottle uncorked



five hours / dear sleepy wake up the champagne

unwrinkling / dear never iron / dear hybrid

mess / dear giant child same as I am / dear as touching



your hand when I made you change / yes, I remember

every complimented shot’s crema / how much sugar

would float / how patient we ever are

you drink with your eyes first

when the color makes
your molars ache or the roses
come too late & are left
behind for the cleaning crew when
you would have Tank 7s at my bar
the summer I wore the same boots
no matter the heat black leather
stacked heel & Levi’s cut-offs
rude as every photo I haven’t sent yet 

I was leaving him & free to swan
dive or better still bellyflop into French 75s
mid afternoon & Kentucky Trevor promised
me a bicycle & that he’d be back to see
whose horse finished first & I can’t stand
not knowing if I knocked into your elbow
with an empty tray or why I got engaged
a 2nd time just after I got laid off

but before you were a regular
at the bar where the syrups poured
like almost-amber & I wasn’t good at pretending
I didn’t want to go home with you again
which is why we’d stand just beyond the door
talking & I’d smoke before 3 which I never do
because you made me nervous & you knew
about it didn’t you? couldn’t you always
read the heat passing through me in waves?

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 non-binary writers. She is 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.