by Emily O’Neill

My sister slipped the word “cunt”
between my ribs and twisted the blade.

Dad and I had cussed until the room sizzled,
fled the kitchen heat like a pair of startled birds.

I escaped in Matty’s van; my dad made for the bus station, tripped
over the train tracks that fenced in our street. A chunk of gravel

sheared a hole through his ear. My mother brought him
back to the house, talked him into getting stitches—

they drove to the ER while I snuck into a movie without paying,
laughing until the intake of breath stabbed and stabbed.

My sister said I was wrong to hate Dad
that way: out loud, to his face, teeth bared.

When I was little, and he hit me, he was always still
wearing his watch. He lost his vision, his legs,

the impulse to treat us like colts—all his violence to time.
When I was old enough something wild cracked open

and bubbled ugly in me and I slung it at him, every chance.
We both ran away from home. Both of us. I can’t forgive the details,

how many twitching hands it took for my voice
to break. For me to know what it looks like to hurt a man

instead of falling over a knee. Or the black, bloody thread
holding him closed and close to me, the story I tell only to myself.

old school micEmily 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 appears or is forthcoming in Sugar House Review, FRiGG Magazine, Paper Darts, The Well&Often Reader, and Weave. Her poem “A Spade, A Spade,” was a finalist in the Gigantic Sequins‘ first annual poetry contest, judged by Nick Flynn. She edits nonfiction for Printer’s Devil Review and hangs her many hats in Somerville, MA. You can pick her brain at

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