Startling Poetry: Testimony

It’s been a while since we had an addition to our startling poetry series so here’s a doozy. Enjoy!

Testimony by Maura O’Connor

These days

I cover my face with bottled skin

and scented creams

stain my lips the color of rose juice

wear black

my eyes deepen


The man who once called me

that girl in the white shirt

is my lover


He carried me home in a magician’s casket

cut me in two

I came out whole


I’m a kindness to climb into

a Dresden doll found in the basement

of a burnt house


These days

I buy the book with the ugliest cover

comb the thick orange hair

of the innocent child

I never was


While my heroes are knocked down

like piñatas

while we wear surgical gloves

to the laying on of hands


I’ve folded suicide in four

laid it on a bare white shelf

someday it may gather dust

I might toss it away like an old dishrag

I’m young

green as bread mold


I’m seeking witness


I want the testimony of



the shadows of the bricks

of Nagasaki


These days

the newspapers serve a menu of clay pigeons

bring your own bullets


I want to ban the colors of the television

the perfect thighs

and plastic wishes

I want to put my next breath

in my lover’s mouth

I want to burn Jesus leaflets

and wear his sandals


I’m taking it all off

in the bars of my ribcage


While the politicians find work

for each idle child

while two terminal patients

place bets on the existence of God


These days

I show the years when I didn’t want to live

in the gray spokes of my iris

I’m coming apart like a ten-cent toy

I carry my head under my arm

like a rag doll


I want to sleep in the ruin

of last night’s makeup

I want ancient recipes over instant rice


I want to find the hummingbird graveyard

I want to fill my mouth with black beetles

and walk the edge of Eden


I need a new commandment


I will collect single bars of old songs

I will weep a page of black ink

I will be an unprotected witness


My country serves three-day notice

to the starving

my country’s hands are tattooed

on the belly of a battered child

my country sleeps in the snow of the television

after its anthem is played


Let’s burn the country

and keep the flag


This night is falling in pieces

this moon is cream on a raisin sky


I will evolve thick skin and filter

I will plan my next breath


I will watch the four riders

foam their horses into glue


It isn’t over yet

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