Friday, August 28, 2009

Read It Again: Poetry Friday With January O'Neil


Underlife

January Gill O'Neil
CavanKerry Publishing
2009

Underlife represents that gnawing wilderness of thought and emotion hidden away from the external world. The dynamics of race, family, motherhood, career, sex, and, ultimately, transformation are explored in this debut collection. Vivid and unflinchingly honest, O’Neil’s narratives are portals through which we see our lives as if for the first time. These poems make the ordinary extraordinary.

*I featured January earlier this month. This is from the same collection, new poem.

The Ripe Time

Each month she thinks her nipples
are becoming more tender,
areolas blooming into wild ginger.
Before her is a bed filled with ardor.

Pregnant, not pregnant,
she is the princess without the pea—
a ball stuck in the pinball machine
that tilts like clockwork.

After making love
they lie on their sides silvered with sweat.
She listens for the soft chirp of her own breathing:
it does not reveal why her body operates
like a failed business.

On this night
where marriage is the only safe place
she can go, her husband holds her,
tells her it’s just a matter of time.

But all she can think about
is this empty house they can’t afford
and the ripe tomatoes growing in backyard containers,
smooth-fleshed and heavy,
falling from their stems.

Originally appeared at Literary Mama.

January's debut poetry collection scheduled release is September 2009. Her work has appeared in numerous publications. A Cave Canem Fellow, January regularly participates in writers' groups, poetry festivals and readings. She blogs at Poet Mom and is a columnist for readwritepoem.

January is my peer, my friend, my confidant for our weekly Confession Tuesday. I hope you enjoy her work as much as I do. Support poetry. Buy her collection. Poetry Friday is hosted this week by Kate Coombs at Book Aunt.

9 comments:

tanita davis said...

Wow, that's really beautiful. Especially evocative is the line, where marriage is the only safe place she can go... Truly lovely.

Charlotte said...

So beautiful, so sad...the ripe tomatoes get me!

jama said...

Love the sensuality, the sad yearning, beginning with the flower and ending with the fruit.

Kelly said...

I love the synopsis of Underlife in the beginning. It's quite poetic in itself!
Very sensual, honest poem!

Rethabile said...

Very nicely done. Those bursting red tomatoes mean such a lot!

And "silvered with sweat" is fresh metaphor that's hard to find these days.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

Wow I love this poem. The sadness really grabs me.

"it does not reveal why her body operates
like a failed business."

Oy.

January said...

Thanks everyone. Writing poems is such a solitary act that I sometimes forget how universal our experiences can be.

Your kind words are a gift.

Melissa said...

Wow. Beautiful in its poignancy and reality. Thank you.

laurasalas said...

Oh, gorgeous. The princess without the pea, the silvered with sweat, the overripe tomatoes--what a wide variety of images she uses, and every one of them works!