Emily O’Neill’s “Everything Is Wrong”



Pavlova again, or a terrine, or a pan in the oven crackling
with fat drifting far from bone. Scent like the last
safe dinner set out before the schism.
                                                                        When my father died
he became a rabbit. My sisters saw him in the street. Velveteen
shuffling back from the forest into scarlet fever.
                                                                                      It’s not right
that skin holds us like this—thrashing through dreams
of the stove left on & vicious. We snap in the heat
like Janis’s voice
                                               c’mon, c’mon,
take it
. I’ll give. I’ll send you. I’ll write this in fox fur.
Let it be soft & dead in your hands—the apology you won’t speak.
I know who you’ve unsewn. I know
about the wall & your hands
                                                           I know how the broken break
everything around them. This, our contest. You push people
like I push people, wanting them to spring back
                                                                              to slander a friend
for telling you no. For begging stop. You can’t chase down permission
this way, with dogs. No matter how hungry.
                                                                       I used to follow you when
you followed rabbits through the walls of your own house.
We were looking for our dads. Snorting lines off of plates. Hands
covered in flour. Take this, eat. No one coming to stay but food is love
nobody hungry turns down. I’m ashamed
                                                                       I can’t recognize a monster
when he’s bit me. I would condemn you, but you stole that privilege
with smoke. And that smoke smelled like the neighborhood
cat lit on fire by an angry child. And weren’t you
always angry & on fire? All the windows
thrown open.
                                   I remember the day we found you
stuffed full of pills like the matchbox on my dresser. I remember
the false lipstick tube with a spoon in the lid.
                                                                       I remember you pressing
me with questions about who would help you to stop
breaking & entering bodies that weren’t yours.
                                                                                    I can’t absolve anybody.
                         I know who you’ve unsewn. I know what fevers kill.