Emily O’Neill

how i ruin everything by saying it out loud



I am not feeding myself / to a bad man

but I am not the one / driving the car

tonight & won’t exit seriousness


before the carving station / cannot

see myself / boiling until someone scalds

a lunch ruined by inconsistent stirring


what kind of monster eats / salted butter

from the crescent of a fingernail / why

do I pull the edges / until blood comes


if I blow it all / the loss will be specific

how a room smells when / bread is charred

too bitter to salvage


or the stuttering / seltzer bottle

could’ve stolen my left eye / I see

you not wanting / to be seen I want to


take a picture / you don’t cringe from

I watch you moving / through strings

of tiny chives or / ramen cacio e pepe


bolt upright / in bed with a rooster comb

when I try sneaking in to steal / books

& you never say my name / out loud


except to other people / it hurts to not be

what I am & I’m sorry for scaring you

every time / I trap you in honey

the cooking hypothesis



we are supposedly the only animals

applying heat to our food / to enhance it / but

dogs bury meat for fermentation & birds know


how to sprout seeds / so when you ask about Boston

burying his bones / what it means / how he knows

to save what’s precious ( marrow, or a gift )


we could blame bubbles every night since

Christmas / how we marry places as we grind them down

between our cheeks / I get anxious mentioning


how I cooked today / if it tasted remarkable / it can’t

when I’m only dull knives & no practice / a bird

bringing seed to water / hoping I get to eat


soon, the White City / what flying

together would taste like / whole world teasing

my walnut drunk / my thimble


glass / my missing what I hope we leaven into / flavor

of where food was made found in its preparation / buffalo

mozzarella flown directly to our strange table / tomato


sandwiches from my grandpa’s garden / red steaks

still sun warm / melting into toast & the future / my solarium

full of herbs / you, buying me pyramid salt


a fireplace / range big as my body sprawled

across a fitted sheet / what perfect kitchen is there

what fills the pantry / when will we go


Emily O'Neill author photo

EMILY O’NEILL teaches writing and tends bar in Boston, MA. Her debut poetry collection, PELICAN, is the inaugural winner of YesYes Books’ Pamet River Prize for women and non-binary writers and the winner of the 2016 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Series. Her second collection, A FALLING KNIFE HAS NO HANDLE, is forthcoming from YesYes in 2018. She is the author of four chapbooks, most recently BABY ON BAR from Ghost City Press, and her work has appeared in Cutbank, Redivider, Salt Hill, Sugar House Review, and Washington Square, among many others.