by January Gill O’Neil
a Duplex, after Jericho Brown
The Stones got it right: It’s a drag getting old.
I bought reading glasses to see words clearly.
With my first pair of cheaters, I see things clearly
now that I’ve reached the half-life of my life.
I’ve reached my half-life—
should’ve read the fine print.
Because I didn’t read the fine print,
I thought a marriage was forever.
I thought marriage meant forever.
I’m an unmarried woman past her meridian.
I’m an unmarried woman past her meridian
and sometimes I can’t help but feel cheated.
I can’t help it. I wish he hadn’t cheated.
I didn’t see the writing on the wall
but the writing’s on the wall—
What a drag it is getting old.
At the Periphery
The way I misread orange
for organic, the way
I forget the title
of a Phil Levine poem,
"The Simple ____,”
a poem of which
I can still recite lines
with my eyes closed,
even though I need glasses
even though the prescription
sits in the bottom of my purse
next to the red and white peppermints
(that old granny candy) and used tissues.
I’m nearsighted. I can’t see distances,
but my logic is flawed—the way
I read distance as distain.
Even my own handwriting
plays tricks on me, I see laziness
as leaving, so I give up on my cursive
half-scribble as memory spirals on the edge
of whatever it is I’m trying
to write, stays in the back of the throat
like the truth you never uttered because the time
was always wrong as Phil wrote,
the way language covets leaving,
always the turning and never the turn,
my distain at the periphery,
the way I peer into the dark
and never see what coming
but always see what’s leaving.
January Gill O’Neil is the author of Rewilding (2018), Misery Islands (2014), and Underlife (2009), published by CavanKerry Press. She is an associate professor of English at Salem State University, and board of trustees member with the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) and Montserrat College of Art. From 2012-2018, she served as executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. In 2018, January was awarded a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant, and was named the John and Renée Grisham Writer in Residence for 2019-2020 at the University of Mississippi, Oxford. She lives with her two children in Beverly, Massachusetts.