Monday Jul 22

ONeilJanuary-PhotoCreditRachelElizaGriffiths January Gill O’Neil is the author of Underlife (CavanKerry Press, 2009), and a forthcoming collection, Misery Islands (CavanKerry Press, 2014). She is the executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and an assistant professor of English at Salem State University. January's poems and articles have appeared in Ploughshares, Sou’Wester, North American Review, Drunken Boat, Crab Orchard Review, Callaloo, Literary Mama, Field, Seattle Review, and Cave Canem anthologies II and IV, among others. She was awarded a Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund grant. A Cave Canem fellow, she runs a popular blog called Poet Mom. She lives with her two children in Beverly, Massachusetts.


By Way of

I am terra firma by way of airship,
by way of mist and fog to clear blue easy.

I’m in transit; don’t know what state I’m in,
by way of upgrade, by way of centigrade.

I’m flying over the inner cities of America,
over brick and click, over dirt and trail,
over cardboard, glass, plastic, and tin.

I am hope by way of heart.
I am conjoined twins named Progress and Excess.

I am the trees that fall in the forest
but everyone denies hearing.

I am a nation in foreclosure.

I am every cigarette butt and pull tab
left by the side of the road.

I am pawn shops and payday easy-loan shops
my sidewalks are paved with scratched lottery tickets.

I am everyone named Lucky and Chance.

I am every child who won’t come home tonight.

Every three minutes, someone kills two birds
with one stone. The crime is never reported.

I am Killington, by way of Stone Mountain,
by way of Death Valley.

I am every sex shop and tittie bar
named Golden Banana and XXX.

I am every mill town and boarded up factory,
the assembly line disassembled, the layoffs,
layaways, and laid to rest.

I put the depressed in depression.
I am America reconstructed; I am a force at work.

I dig a ditch, I fill a ditch.
My collar is white, my collar is blue.

I am the missing $ .23 cents out of every dollar
a woman is supposed to earn
but doesn’t.

I am every God damn it and Lord have mercy.

I am America by way of Africa,
Mexico, Ireland, Poland, and India.

Land that I love,
I fly over you,
look down at you,
dream my American dreams about you.

Every second of every day,
I am cardboard
I am glass
I am plastic
I am tin.


You Are Not Your Salary

But you are the pens, the paper,
the report due yesterday
with its charts and figures.
You’re the tilting desk
that no one, not even you,
bothers to fix. Take a swig
of burnt coffee and get to it.
You fix things, you buy things,
you’re a connector, a decider,
you find mistakes in statements

buried in the coal mines of words.
You are also the banter, the fodder,
the guffaw in the corner office,
the high five and the back slap.
You’re the secret knowledge
that you’re the only one here
who has a clue. How quickly
the hours move as you buy time.
You’re a wealth of information
in an economy of scale.

Like the clock on the wall you make things tick.
Nevertheless, you are not your salary—how could you be?
You are the window overlooking
the golf course and the Q-tipped golfers
hitting balls into oblivion.


Photo of Ms. O'Neil by Rachel Eliza Griffiths