Boyfriend Pantoum

Hallmark does not make a card for this

for what we mean to each other,

for what we do when my kids are asleep.

We are not married. Not husband and wife.

What do we mean to each other?

More than lovers, more than friends

but we are not married. Not husband and wife.

One card says, Know what I love about you?

Or To My Partner, To My Friend, 

with the inside left blank.

My boyfriend asks, “what do you

know about me?” as he brings me water at 3 a.m.

With the inside left blank

I write To the man I spend my nights with,

who brings me a glass of water at 3 a.m.,

whose body was made to fit inside my body:

There’s no one else I’d rather spend my nights with.

Who are we when my kids are asleep?

His beautiful body fits inside of my body. 

Hallmark does not make a card for this.

The Great Hello

A big-ass moon rises full and wide

in the western sky. The deep pond

awakens with the tongues of bullfrogs.

I’m barely over the threshold before

our mouths lock and we slither

onto the bed. We watch each other

watching each other with a silent urging,

a kindness for the other in the pursuit of pleasure.

I fling my head back as he grabs my hips,

pulls me close, begin to feel myself levitate,

hovering above the bed as the shadow

of someone I don’t recognize but have known

all her life. I am an over-easy egg

trying not to break her yolk,

but I do. The joy of leaving the body,

tender and shimmering. A moment of gratitude

for every daunting thing that brought me to this place

where I am my most fearless, my most true.

I wick the sweat from his head, slide my hand across

his glistening skin before crawling back into myself,

sprawled across the sheets, streaked in moonlight.

The Beyond Place

Eat for the hunger that comes

               says our guide, as I try

                                 my first serviceberry:

purplish globes, sweet

               with an almond finish.

                                 I am a first-time forager,

marveling this marvel of landscape

               made lush by the rush of the Hoosic’s

                                 underground waters. The name, he tells us,

was translated from Algonquin

               as “the beyond place.”

                                 Generous June. Every tree surrenders 

its green flags while

               we crouch ground-low,

                                 spy the wide splays of leaves,

their dark, papery undersides

               send messages from below:

                                 this plant is edible; this one will kill you.

I climbed out of one world—


                                 to taste another.

City girl. Chicken of the Woods.

               Yet here the humid wind softens

                                 the cicadas’ strident song

as we root and snip, bend stems

               back to the point of breaking

                                 to discover wild carrot, or is it hemlock?

Stick with the berries, I tell myself.

               A rough twang, a touch of funk—

                                 trust the joy I know.

January Gill O'Neil
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