call & response

Annette O'Neil

your eyes flash, startled,

when the words pop from my lips:

i love you. yes. that.

they have been a pearl

worked beneath the patch of skin

you like to tickle

that pearl thought, now sound,

rolls between us as you leave.

unexpected. loud.


and then your silly smiling;

your retreating form.

these words are no gift;

no bear trap in the soft leaves;

no call-and-response.

they are fact, just as:

your tea’s gettin’ cold, baby.

my silence broke clean.

and now you know this,

in speech, what was already

acted out for you.

perhaps you will run.

or fade. i am not sorry.

i — your part-time girl,

your drop-in consort,

the thing you never asked for —

live to lean my head

to the space above

your dark brow; to catch your lip

between my sharp teeth.

if you don’t want this,

well, then, that is fact as well.

i will make my peace.

but know that, always,

i will keep a room for you

in my strange, wild heart.

Annette O'Neil

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