Heather Aimee O'Neill
When The Nepotist put out the anonymous call to his friends asking them to send along poems, he knew-- because of course his friends are amazing and talented-- that the poems he'd receive would impress him. The following two poems by Heather Aimee O'Neill, however, do more than impress him. These two poems drop him from a sharp height. They bust him open and apart. They move him. Across the room, through the halls of the house, out the door into the dark backyard, they move him. "First water, / then body, voice and faith," she writes. I love the open honesty of these poems. I love their voice-- so sincere it almost quakes. I am beyond pleased to publish these.
Jess would ask Lewis Carroll for a word
for word translation of jabberwocky
or Buffalo Bill where he hid the gold.
Laure-Anne would ask Mary-Magdalene
if she and Christ were lovers.
Anthony would ask Christ:
Will you help me? And Ruby would
ask Christ to speak slowly this time,
to please write down the words himself.
Sean will not reveal his question,
nor will Liam. They do
not know, yet.
Jill would ask her husband: Why?
Carol would ask her father: Who were you
before the war? She would ask her mother:
Why did you stay?
Meredith would ask: Where were you
on that cloudless morning?
Was it awful? Were you alone? Can you see
my newborn son?
Jay would ask the ghost of Hitler: Do you think
it was worth it? William would ask his grandmother
why she and his grandfather slept in separate rooms.
My father would ask the man who murdered his God
child: Why are you still alive?
Catherine would ask Mother Superior
of St. John's convent: Were we that unworthy?
Am I still that unworthy?
Mars May Have Been A Land Of Lakes*
Let's begin by deciding what it is
we're trying to define. You're
impossible. That's what I've decided,
that's how I've defined you.
Nature has a way of compensating.
As a blonde, I should have 38,000 more
strands of hair on my head than my
brunette sister, my redhead brother.
You found one on your pillow
and, hours after I left, called to see
if I wanted it back. An eyelash,
you would have kept for yourself.
Mars may have been a land of lakes,
but the satellite orbits us, and the photos
cannot reveal such distant history.
And why should they? We can't
even be honest with each other,
let alone believe the billion years
it took for us to happen: first water,
then body, voice and faith.
*Title from a newspaper article in The Scotsman-December 2000
About the Poet:
Heather Aimee O'Neill teaches creative writing at CUNY Hunter College of New York and is the Assistant Director of the Sackett Street Writers' Workshop. Her work has been published in Many Mountains Moving, Contemporary Verse and The Truth About The Fact: An International Journal of Literary Non-Fiction, among others. She lives in Brooklyn and is currently working on her first novel.
On the identity of The Nepotist:
I don't know who you are, but I see brown hair and freckles. And I'm glad we're friends.