Emily O'Neill

Everybody Knows That I’m a Mess

I’m so happy

that you’re                              younger,

gone                             to sleep on linoleum

near the stove

so stoned / sleepy                                           I’m so happy

you hit me / single, perfect

that stutter summer                                        wrong

my hair came back in

black & silk as violin                           goodnight poison

ivy / goodnight to the moneyed

Connecticut                             & their gin mouths

pale, he hit me

& I didn’t flinch          handsome prize

for him to bite & bend                                    (see, real

enough                                                gold)

for fracture                              what fresh hell // to fall

apart, a ruined doll—one eye twitching

(bruised)                      let’s play house:


puddled around my teeth,                               Bible

sure as a pistol,                                               air mattress

slick with his women


everybody knows I’m so happy

to be young & reckless                       I’m so happy

the sun came up still

corny & yellow / I’m so happy

we’re here                                           we woke up, two tangled snakes

by water          so rough it must be a man,

must be my ticket home


that totaled motorcycle // I could’ve died

recover? I didn’t /                   I went back & back

can’t try to                              & back again

& don’t                                   my body was never

knife enough


to cut me free of the privilege of being

kept close to a man who hates

everything he touches                         so long as he can’t stop

touching me, I’m safe from strangle

no, I won’t go swimming        or slowly dipping into my own madness

no, I’m not your baby


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. She teaches writing at the Boston Center for Adult Education and edits poetry for Wyvern Lit.