I’m lying in bed playing dead
lizard because it’s all dry
where rain should happen & cinder
where we didn’t put ourselves out. That’s the legacy.
We forgot to inconvenience ourselves. Don’t know

where we’re going. The city, crowded now
with people who forget how to have hands.
No one here makes. They buy. They shine & beg
& sleep like pets do. It’s cute
how swollen the streets are
with bodies devoid of skill.

At work, I overhear a man complaining
about trains. That kids’ show with engines
helping each other out of trouble. He called it Victorian.
Said he didn’t want his child growing up
proud to work in a factory. ( I gave him decaf )

I can barely hear the future arrive
over the sound of gas-powered lawn mowers
& my own blood screeching. I sing the body with nothing
shooting through it anymore, work all day digging
fuel out of my joints to give to people who space
travel. Constantine says we’ll moon colonize
& also when I pour milk it looks like a nebula.
He moves back to California ( they have no water )

I hope the bridge to the moon happens soon
for Constantine. ( it won’t ) I’ve convinced myself
I’ll die chained to an espresso machine. We can’t escape
what we’ve made. The city doesn’t build anything
new. It just stays alive. A disciplined body.
Eats what’s labeled good. Spits out what’s labeled trash.
Everyone I love pushed to the edges so there’s a moat disrupting
every neighborhood. I want to apologize to every turtle
who got eaten crawling towards the sea.

We’re walking backwards into boiling water.
We were fish a long time ago & can be again.
We forgot how to care until it became fashionable.
Like almond milk. It takes so much water
to make what people think they want.


Emily O’Neill is a writer, artist, and proud Jersey girl. Her recent poems and stories can be found in The Journal, Redivider, and Washington Square, among others. Her debut collection, Pelican, is the inaugural winner of YesYes Books’ Pamet River Prize. She is also the author of two chapbooks: Celeris (Fog Machine, 2016) and You Can’t Pick Your Genre (Jellyfish Highway, 2016). She teaches writing at the Boston Center for Adult Education and edits poetry for Wyvern Lit. Find her @tabernacleteeth or http://emily-oneill.com.


Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, prose, reviews, and interviews from marginalized creators.