Emily O’Neill – Two Poems

Emily O’Neill

Two Poems

Wage Slave

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.

Saturday Boy

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.

return to SHAMPOO 41