Literary Orphans

Two Poems by Michael O’Neill


Treating Women Like Used Books

Standing in the library, I stare at the writings

of dead men. Turning the pages of bullet


wounds and broken spines. The faded

words that speak of tall tales and love


lost. All the letters jump out from the

paper and parade in front of my shotgun


eyes, daring me to shoot. My mind jumbles

and spins like carbines repeatedly misfiring.


The only gun I hold is hidden behind the

reflection of my glasses. And when I try


to put you out of your misery I always

blink at the wrong time, as if I’m too


afraid to pull


the trigger.

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I’ve heard it said that it takes the entire life’s

work of eight bees to produce just one teaspoon


of honey, and I don’t know if I feel bad, or just

worthless, as I lift my spoon overtop this stale


piece of bread, a litter of stingers lying at my

feet. I do know that I have never worked at


something so long and with such dedication to

taste any lasting sweetness on my lips or even


the feeling of accomplishment that comes from

a life well spent. And I don’t know if a honeybee


is inherently aware of his role in the world, or if

he feels content at the end of the day knowing


that his task is complete, or on his deathbed, there

among his family of other dying bees, together,


yet alone in his honeycomb, does he weep for

himself knowing that it is a human such as I that


will suckle upon his crowning victory? And to

think, I didn’t even wash this spoon before I used it.

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Michael O’Neill is a fiction and poetry writer residing in Chicago. His work has appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine, unFold Magazine, Nanoism, and Cuento Magazine, among others.


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–Art by Charles Simms