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two poems

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.


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