January Gill O'Neil

Skinny Dip

Make peace with what cannot be seen
and what you do not know.
Try not to enter the pond scum,
the algae that swirls
in dark, empty rooms called water.
Pretend your body is a submarine—
impenetrable, even to your own thoughts.
Those breasts, underinflated flotation devices.
Your thick middle will keep you buoyant
though your arms, slender as sea grass,
won’t save anyone, not even yourself.
This is a world for one: the current’s
sublime lilt, the mumbles of light
from drunken stars. Nothing,
not even you, goes unnoticed.
You can swim for hours
and never get away.


The “4” is a woman with her arm
buttressing her crooked back. The “0,”
a breast, still rounded and cupped,
waiting to be touched by her husband
as he lights a candle on the nightstand.
She watches the flame sway and bend
while the light embraces the shadows.
How quiet they are, the two of them
approaching this new age. Her curves still
amaze him. The light quarters them into
equal parts radiance and desire,
the fine gradations, the parsing of glow
and gesture, how the room encloses them
in this hothouse, these forms doing nothing more
than following their functions.

After Making Love, I Leave to Write a Poem

Already I am making myself lighter,
willing myself to our quiet, unlit office
where fallen hydrangea pedals litter my desk
and the rain leaks through a hole in the roof.

Here, I am most proud of my life:
the blessings of words, the way they shape
this house and the hours that move inside it.
He knows I go to answer some grim wisdom

his body has pressed into me, perhaps
the new music made by our old bodies
while night slides itself into sleep. I feel
the bliss of blue, those heavy-headed stalks

leaning closer and closer to earth. In this hour,
he is the vase in the room holding my flowers.


January Gill O’Neil is the author of Underlife (CavanKerry Press, December 2009), and a forthcoming collection, Misery Islands (CavanKerry Press, fall 2014). She is the executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and an assistant professor of English at Salem State University. She blogs at http://poetmom.blogspot.com.