The Polish teenager
working behind the deli counter,
the one with “thug life” tattooed
on his skinny neck,
happened to you.
seemed so good
something’s taking shape
in you being
alive and whatever it is that seemed
to have died inside you
is now worn on the outside of your body
where you stand in the middle of the corner store
clutching a package of meat
like your life
depends on it.
at the living room inside you
where a young girl hangs on
invisible hinges. No one believes
that wildfire below burning
flowers off her party dress.
You have to squint just to see
her little thigh blister
open like a bird that still sings
minutes before the blade
enters its gut. Her smoldering ash-
the only reliable witness
to your life.
Look how everyone finds happiness
one room at a time,
like night isn’t rushing into
your bedroom where you stand weeping
at the sight of your own body.
Outside the windows,
your children carry little statues
in their pockets, just so they can bury
and crush them with their heels.
Don’t forget your mother
is still dying and everything
is at or around your feet.
Just because that woman riding the bus eastbound on 55th street
should’ve left that man 30 years ago, doesn’t mean she can’t
tell you to fumble around for that dream you had.
Never mind that. Sit yourself closer and watch a life
try to gnaw its way out of her. Going in the same exact direction
as people you’ve never met makes everything feel like its slipping
out of reach. Stop being everyone’s accuser. Remember her face.
You will look for it in the rubble.
The bodies flame into a wild God. A dark matter God sitting in South Dakota at the bottom of a goldmine—the quarter of the universe no one has ever seen. Suspended in its heart is a world too good for us. Sometimes we see a brief flash of light from twenty five stories high. We die without knowing the universe. We never know what it’s made of.
A rat mother makes one thousand babies in a year then forges them out into the landscape armed with skills. They win or lose or die. My body is a time machine. When it’s turned on I am a rat baby without a rat mother holding herself in the dark.
Annmarie O’Connell is the author of the chapbook Her Last Cup of Light published by Aldrich Press. Some of her work has appeared or is forthcoming with Verse Daily, Slipstream, SOFTBLOW, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Vinyl Poetry, 2River View, and Anthem Journal, along with several other journals and magazines. She is a (lifelong) resident of the South side of Chicago and historically has a distinct passion for loving you.