about the author

Emily O’Neill is a proud Jersey girl who tells loud stories in her inside voice because she wants to keep you close. Her most recent work can be found in Paper Darts, The Well&Often Reader, Sugar House Review and FRiGG Magazine, and her poem “A Spade, A Spade,” was a finalist in Gigantic Sequins’s first annual poetry contest, judged by Nick Flynn. She is the poetry editor of Side B Magazine and has a degree in the synesthesia of storytelling from Hampshire College. You can pick her brain at emily-oneill.com.

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A Spade, A Spade

Emily O’Neill

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If I had waited. Stopped. Told truths
when asked back across threshold like the end
of evening. Call Lucifer a light-keeper, Santa Clarita a bell
ringing in the wrong language. Somewhere it’s written—
you stole my mother’s gold framed mirror, and my green years,
and there were never flowers.

You parted the legs of the woman I loved
with a sharp knee. Call the drawn card blade
enough to kill. Saying how much my father meant
seems such a calculated risk. What kiss
does it promise? What might

the cockroaches say? Why did I leave
myself alone with you? Draw another card
at the turn, the river. Open the hand like a fan.
What is it worth to win this way? I pray
with other men’s hands now. Not your girl. Never
your girl. Call a spade a spade.

You are arrogant to claim family.
Only blood between us fell from your lip
by my teeth. The risk has already been paid for
and dearly. The summer we last spoke, you gave me a rope,
some chalk, a children’s book of sharks. Spells
grip us by the ankles with less.

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