Mississippi Season

He says I hold my mind well,
likes that I put my kids first
and have never tried drugs.
The lilt in his southern drawl
intoxicates me. He likes
not being able to have all of me,
makes him want me more.
Broken finds broken, I say,
so when he kisses my neck
along my clavicle down
to my breast, I break
all over again
after a drought
of no kissing, no touch.
How not being chosen
can dim any light.
For years I told myself
a story I could live with,
thought of myself
a kind of carnival fish
in a plastic bag
floating in my own still water,
waiting to be loved.
Dumb luck that someone
flips a red ring on the mouth
of a glass jar and just like that,
I am kissing again,
kissing a man so luminous—
so beautifully flawed—
I can barely look at him.
And my mind, done
with all its stories,
turns to the carnal
as I rim the hinge
of his lips with my tongue
and dive into
this quenching.

January Gill O’Neil is an associate professor at Salem State University, and the author of Rewilding (2018), Misery Islands (2014), and Underlife (2009),all published by CavanKerry Press. From 2012-2018, she served as the executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, and currently serves on the boards of AWP, Mass Poetry, and Montserrat College of Art. Her poems and articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day series, American Poetry ReviewEcotone, New England ReviewPloughshares andWBUR’s Cognoscenti, among others. The recipient of fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Cave Canem, and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, O’Neil was the 2019-2020 John and RenĂ©e Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi, Oxford. She lives with her two kids in Beverly, MA.