A Journal

"I'm going to come back to West Virginia when this is over. There's something ancient and deeply-rooted in my soul. I like to think that I have left my ghost up one of those hollows, and I'll never really be able to leave for good until I find it. And I don't want to look for it, because I might find it and have to leave".----Breece D'J Pancake, in a letter to his mother. 

Emily O'Neill



We say we’re in search of immortality, but settle
on panning this shallow creek bed for gold.

What will we find? Cavities in my molars. Easter Sunday black eye
captured by every camera. Face a country to plant a flag in.

Conquistador cuts me off at the wrists, pulls me out of myself
like a scream: mother’s diary stuffed under mattress; father’s legs

dissected in medical theater. Grandfather—swollen,
seizing, until chest cracks & spews sea.

I know what I’ve seen is no possibility. I am seven,
the runt, cannot swim safely. Deprive the body of oxygen: it’ll shut down

slow, windows in a high rise falling dark. Goodbye,
rib by boring rib. No more bad metaphors of the body. No open heart

surgery over every hurt. No like a fist, like blood.
Falling apart is a contagious disease. You are a carrier.

Kiss me, our mouths are sulfur. Call me onion.
Break me down—you are crying.



My favorite souvenir is a child sized coon skin cap I bought at a place called 10,000 Silver on the side of the highway in Montana last summer while driving back to Boston from Tacoma, WA. The hat itself is fake fur, but the tail is very real. I saw these hats at every truck stop and tourist attraction west of the corn palace in rural Iowa and couldn't bear to return home without one.

Emily O'Neill is a writer, artist, and proud Jersey girl. Her recent poems and stories can be found in Banango Street, Nailed Magazine, and Vector, among others. Her debut collection, Pelican, is the inaugural winner of Yes Yes Books' Pamet River Prize and forthcoming in 2014. You can pick her brain at