Lily Poetry Review: The Body Dialogues by Miriam O’Neal


The Body Dialogues

Poetry Collection


Miriam O’Neal’s first collection of poems, We Start With What We’re Given, was published by Kelsay Books in 2018. She is a 2019 Pushcart Prize nominee and was named a Notable Poet for the 2018 Disquiet Literary Prize. Her translation of Italian poet, Alda Merini’s, Poema della Croce, was recognized in 2007, by the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA). Her poems and reviews have appeared in AGNI, Blackbird Journal, North Dakota Quarterly, Passager Journal, Southern Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts.


Birth Day
Already missing the weight of her lade,
she becomes an empty crib.
The burden of making
replaced by empty space.
If she is lucky
the child slides
like a christened ship,
to waiting waters
and loosed like the bottle’s  
broken neck, her body pours
what’s left
into attending hands.

Gender Studies
When he is four my son tells me
he’s had a past life.
I was a dresser, he reports.
And I had 3 drawers.

And if one of my drawers was open
I was female.

And when all my drawers were closed
I was male.
He doesn’t say what this means,
seems to think it’s all been explained.

The only time
my father fell into my arms
was the morning my mother died
He was old testament—the only man
in a room full of women, in a house full of broken.
As I gathered him up he cried,
I never thought I wouldn’t go first.
then sagged back toward the couch
where my sisters caught him and sat him down.
On the phone the undertaker asked,
how soon do you want to see the body?
while the ham my mother had baked the night before
laid the taste of mustard and brown sugar on our tongues.