Emily O’Neill – Two PoemsEmily O’Neill
My paycheck is a pittance. I try not to cry
until after work. I spend the afternoon
face down in the dark, humming a song
for the failure of minimum wage. The ashtray.
The aching ankles. The rice and beans
and rice and beans. The memorial service
I will miss. My father’s two black eyes.
What little hope lies in an unmade bed.
What a little hope I am, mummy of sheet
and forced sleep. Slave of the second shift.
I am so tired I do not sing the words. This week
when I drive to Portland, they will rent me a stage
and I will finally sing the words: what little hope
in the lies of a half-made girl. At least
enough to chart a course by. I can roll
the sun across the sky like a dung beetle.
Despair is an ancient god. I am not
the first priest to make sacrifices.
I am sorry for the peaches—
how they melted to pulp
between hand and bowl,
for the crude rib tattoo I brandished
like a lasso, that forbidden
slice binding you to me
as you wrung whiskey
from my hair, paid for eggs
I could not stomach, stayed soft,
pleaded for me to just lie
still. But I sang in my sleep
for another weekday only sweet
in my stories. I am sorry
sorry sorry for the last martini,
that month of perfect pies. I can still draw
the twist of your mouth in the dark.
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