04.19.2019
Weekly poem on Trump Presidency

 

JANUARY GILL O’NEIL

Uncle

When I look at politicians on my TV screen—
old white men, graying hair, bad pennies,

glimmer of the child they might have been—
I try to imagine them playing Hot Wheels  

on a brown braided rug, or climbing oak trees
in the heat of June: sweet, sweaty skin, hair matted

under baseball caps, riding bicycles that careen
around the neighborhoods of The New Deal.  

The Opie Cunninghams who grew up to inhabit
the Empire of Men. Not a flag pin yet pinned  

on a navy-blue suit. When they clear their throats,
crows fly out. Thieves think all men steal,

one of them said against a Capitol backdrop.
A man like that is not a man, quite.  

Little gods and their school-yard silences, the games
played when they think no one’s watching—

twisting each other’s hands, fingers interlocked,
wrists bent back to inflict annihilation.  

E pluribus unum. Say Uncle. Say it.

The line “A man like that is not a man, quite” is a line taken from Anne Sexton’s poem “Her Kind.” The gender was changed from female to male.

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January Gill O’Neil is the author of Rewilding (fall 2018)Misery Islands (2014), and Underlife (2009), published by CavanKerry Press. She is an assistant professor of English at Salem State University, and boards of trustees member with the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) and Montserrat College of Art. From 2012-2018, she served as executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. A Cave Canem fellow, January’s poems and articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day series,American Poetry ReviewNew England ReviewPloughshares and Ecotone, among others. In 2018, January was awarded a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant, and was named the John and Renée Grisham Writer in Residence for 2019-2020 at the University of Mississippi, Oxford. She lives with her two children in Beverly, Massachusetts.

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