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Riley OHalloran Apr 2019
Isn’t it cool that
the traditional image of a heart
is actually two hearts entwined together.
I do declare,
you are a work of art,
and I’m happy to leave you
with a little part of me.
So many works are based
on pain and anger and disappointment,
but my dearest,
even though it was a kind of good bye,
I hope we can always have
this lovely affection,
for you are still
my favorite girl.
Riley OHalloran Mar 2019
My mom calls it
endearing,
the way that I pull people towards me.

I’m beginning to think that perhaps
she is correct.

I apologize for tempting you to love me.
Braid the broken strands ‘till it’s like they’re meant to be there,
hold yourself together like you never fell apart—
rip at all your seams ‘cause you hate feeling fragile,
rather be a broken bone than a spindly work of art.
Riley OHalloran Mar 2019
The cough in my throat turned into a sandpaper burning sensation,
and yet I sang so loud today that someone complimented me.
Nothing will keep me silent, but I know you want it.
Every cough is an abrupt clap of the vocal chords:
that's what a voice teacher once told me,
and I can feel how right they are every time I cough
and feel like my throat is burning and bleeding all at once.
I want to not do anything with my throat except sing,
not cough, not breathe, not swallow,
just sing, loud enough that you can't help but hear.
I have no self-preservation, but who are you to call me out?
Riley OHalloran Apr 2019
I leave lipstick stains
to mark my territory:
not on any significant other,
not even on cups or water bottles,
but on the cheeks of my mom and dad and brother
if he'll let me.

I have a stick of dark purple,
and another of bright pink,
and when I say my "good bye" and "I love you,"
I leave a ruddy mark.

My dad brags about me,
he says, "My senior still talks to me,"
and when I hear this second-hand I preen
and call him and talk to him some more.

My mom is the one who tells me this,
and she laughs at my antics,
me swelling up in pride,
because she thinks I'm hilarious.


Later, I wave in at her
while she's in some important meeting,
and she smiles and waves back, along with
three other members of that committee.
i want to be good enough
that other parents are impressed,
and i want to bring honor to you:
i want others to think highly of you.
i’m addicted to the feeling i get
when you say, “they were impressed by you.”
i want to be good enough
for you.
i know they use my faults to criticize you, so it is imperative that i have enough qualities to make this difficult.
Riley OHalloran Mar 2019
Do you mind if I sing out loud?
The world doesn't want someone who is too sad,
but it doesn't care for someone who is too happy either.
It's unnatural, and it's fake.
I'm a liar
because I say 'I love you' enough that I have no regrets?
because I look in the mirror and smile at myself?
because I sing out loud.
Riley OHalloran Apr 2019
I’d love to be more of a flirt—
tell girls that
they look lovely every time I think it.
I’d love to tell every
girl that takes my breath away
how she can go ahead and
sit on my lap or
whatever she wants.
I’d love to grab her around the waist
and slow dance and
sing love songs in her ear.
I’d love to, but
I won’t.
Riley OHalloran Apr 2019
I admit that I am confident in myself.
I believe that I will succeed in what I want to do,
and no one can stop me
because I know the secret of life.

I'll tell you a secret.
I make adults insecure sometimes
because I have ideas,
and I push to make them a reality
even when adults don't.

My mom told me:
Your mentor feels weird
because she's five years older than you,
and she's still learning things from you,
but I learn from you every day,
and I'm more than twenty years older than you.
Riley OHalloran Apr 2019
We joke about killing ourselves,
childhood trauma,
our hopes and dreams,
and the love we feel—
as though thats all they are, jokes.
Riley OHalloran Apr 2019
You leave offerings for a temperamental deity
and hope she doesn't ruin your life
like she's done a million times.
You keep doing it because there are days,
oh,
there are days,
there are days when she causes the sun to tan your face,
rain to nurture your crops,
and you love her so dearly,
your lady,
your mistress from above,
that you keep leaving food offerings,
writing prized literature,
singing songs,
giving everything.

She gives,
and she takes away.

I swear I try not to act so immortal.
Riley OHalloran Mar 2019
They say home is where the heart is,
But my heart’s in a million places
All at once like pieces of a magnet,
Drawing together and pulling apart.

These fragments are sharp to touch
Stuck in fingernails and achy paper cuts,
They get in the way, some self-destruct
Once they’ve already been left in the heart of someone else.
Riley OHalloran Mar 2019
I must tell you I took the less beaten trail yesterday;
I skipped through trees and jumped o'er streams to see the water run.
It seemed to me that adventure settles in to stay
within my heart, oh, how I love this shining yellow sun.

The truth, my dear, is that I am still very much a child,
and though I love to play dress up I'm still a baby girl,
traipsing through my memories carelessly in denial,
hoping you find me dancing here beyond the cement girth.
When I asked you what song reminded you of me,
you sent me one about a love curse—
about loving someone dearly and missing them,
and when I messaged you some joke about it,
not about the love curse but about the language,
wanting to clarify but not wanting to be direct,
you responded in what almost looked like nerves.
Neither of us brought up the love curse,
but you didn’t say anyone else made you think of a love song;
am I reading too much into it?
One of us needs to say something.
Riley OHalloran Apr 2019
My backpack straps dig into my shoulders:
they burn with the weight.
I’m sick to my stomach,
and my throat still catches on thin air.
I just want things to ease up
or give me a break.

Mom comes with ginger ale;
we sit together in the car
and consider whether or not to
visit the doctor.
Riley OHalloran Dec 2019
The world is my oyster,
but it’ll be a long time
before I get any pearl to show for it.

I’ve gotten so impatient—
waiting and waiting,
prematurely trying to crack it open,
but it’s no use;
it’s stubbornly glued shut,
saving me from the dripping sand of potential.
I was so scared of not being enough that I forgot I still had all the time in the world.
Riley OHalloran Apr 2019
I am lovely,
a lover,
and loved.
It’s something that won’t
ever be can’t be taken from me
because I have known humanity in every corner,
in every age,
and they all are so eager
to love and be loved
that my Mariana Trench heart is always full.
there are melancholic moments,
and melancholic days
when my face is a little numb,
my eyes, a little gray,
my heart, a little weary,
my nerves, a little frayed—
you, incredibly far,
and too long ago to ache.
repetition  makes insanity(and i am a little insane)
My fingers are shaking—
is it dehydration or weariness?
Is it the weight of the world and my brother
saying, “Why didn’t you eat sooner?
What didn’t you go to sleep earlier?
Take care of yourself more.”
He’s just looking out for me.
It takes heat to open an oyster,
or a knife(or time).
Humans are enough like oysters, I suppose,
but they don’t need pain to bring out their full potential—
they do need time.
Time takes too long for some,
and pain is an easy alternative;
forgoing sleep and forgetting to eat,
distance from loved ones,
pushing and pushing and pushing and—
a pearl.
The ocean is not always blue—
sometimes it’s black,
intimidating and secretive and deep—
that being said, your eyes are full
of the sea over a trench at night,
and I am a diver,
not afraid but enticed.
Riley OHalloran Mar 2019
There is a song
hot and heavy on my breath
like this cough that's been bothering me the last two days.
There's always a song,
but usually I'm not so sick that I can't do anything except write it.
The sea needs no sirens to tempt me,
but I’d love to hear one—
it’d be an easy explanation
for the disappearance I’m craving.
Riley OHalloran Apr 2019
I look up, out of the car window,
and somehow I forget that I am here
and not there,
and it’s a momentary relief
mixed with bewilderment,
but then it ends,
and I’m crushed by where I’m not.
I don’t believe in a location called ‘home,’
but I miss certain locations
more than others,
and I’d like to feel in place.

Isn’t the world supposed to be full
of people who are also
confused and out of place?
I’m not the only one,
the only alien on this odd planet,
but when I look around,
I still feel isolated.
you are as pretty as a star,
but unfortunately,
just like that celestial body,
you’re also a million miles away.
Riley OHalloran Mar 2019
I will not be sleepy
until you're emotionally stable enough to hang up;
I promise.
Love is water:
life-saving in its clarity,
drowning in its obsession,
home in its depths,
terrifying in its unknowns,
refreshing in its cool and heat,
pausing in its ice,
steeping in its boil,
relaxing in its tranquility,
overwhelming in its tidal waves.
Riley OHalloran Apr 2019
Chicago sounds lovely,
with new people places and things
I don’t yet know.
People around here say,
“Isn’t it cold there?
You’re going to get shot.
I bet your parents won’t like
you being so far from home.”

They don’t realize
that there are tunnels
and winter clothes.
They haven’t understood
that if I die,
I know exactly where I’m going,
and besides,
I was never promised safety.

My parents raised me to be independent,
and they didn’t try to push me to any
one school,
but when I showed them
the acceptance letter,
they called everyone.
They’ve been so excited,
and they think
this is a sign of success,
me going off and exploring and living freely.
you
you
i haven’t seen you in so long
that i think, if i did,
i’d see the night sky lit up,
stars twinkling against pale blue
in your eyes.

— The End —