Emily O’Neill

Emily O’Neill is a writer, artist, and proud Jersey girl. Her recent poems and stories can be found in Cutbank, The Journal, Minnesota Review, Redivider, and Washington Square, among others. Her debut collection, Pelican, is the inaugural winner of YesYes Books’ Pamet River Prize. She is the author of three chapbooks: Celeris (Fog Machine, 2016), You Can’t Pick Your Genre (Jellyfish Highway, 2016), and Make a Fist & Tongue the Knuckles (Nostrovia! Poetry, forthcoming 2016). She teaches writing at the Boston Center for Adult Education and edits poetry for Wyvern Lit.



the rope is just for decoration


the first place I ate tartare is doomed & wooden / we don’t talk

except about the cab radio / tuned to the sex scene from Desperado

instead of Paterson’s perennial comeback kid


Fetty Wap is an ass man / probably fell for the same scene you did, Catherine

Zeta-Jones sliding arched under gridded lasers / recognizable desire

common as brown bread or hummus / except


when you don’t recognize want at all / find it disguised

in garlic / lamb neck too gamey / a dearth of salt / missed

appointment / you bubble, sound like a fish tank & I’ve forgotten


Ted’s name & where we met / again

I’m rude / a child / using the wrong fork

forgetting my napkin / I went away that first sip


to a couch in a stranger’s basement / tasted

Becky’s lip ring & a decade afterwards / never mind

there’s bread crust pushed to the back of my throat


I spend too long wondering if a split bottle of wine means

people are fucking / I cry all the time about organs

grown on the back of rats or stem cell mapped after


we’ve already lost what we’re going to / wine like the first time I ate a plum

no / Carolina dune sand at the end of my bed / blowjobs all over / crystal

decanter chandeliers / Ted claims he’s responsible for both / often


I pass as one of the boys by acting crass / saying yes

then eyebrows raised dramatically / why drunk straight girls

take my hand demanding we leave best friends / the pick up


time is criminally quick / give me bottomless beef tendon

& a flight of amari 3 ways / sipping past then press rewind

to seethe & ask one more time / am I nothing like I used to be



catalog of loves gone undevoured


toad in the hole with coffee gravy / panzanella, roasted haloumi

shredded celery root golden beets pickled green beans / precise

acidity / vinegar forward / winter root


vegetable latkes & ricotta & cumquat ( my first ) / clothbound cheddar grits

maple glazed pig tails / cheese crostini to shear the sweetness in half

orange wine by the glass / bright & solid / holding myself


open against a window / the sparkle bridge in Fort Point

where we go when there aren’t stars / the $100 bottle of bubbles

we drank from a tin boot / straight to hell, boys / the ceiling at Capo


like a floor / the floor like Gram’s upstairs bathroom

where I’d push aside the bath mat & press migraine to tile

we’ve had so many Italian Mondays / magazine loaded


with stewed tomatoes, hushed breath / wine, the gun

to swallow willingly / saffron not a spice at all but marigold stamen

cortado to shorten in Spanish / they shovel green peppers into the khee mao


& I get angry when I can’t remember the ratios

the way you spout numbers or / quote Pierce on correct potatoes

boiled instead of roasted if you’re going to make gnocchi


old fitz + jk scrumpy cider = peanut brittle

la guita + unpastuerized sheep’s milk cheese = watermelon

3/4 ango + 1 1/4 dry curaçao = a better Fireball


women are supposed to have better palates / so you ask

what I taste before you’ll tell me / not chocolate exactly / but there it is

as the beer mellows / cacao, of course & something greener

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