January Gill O'Neil


January Gill O’Neil was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and received a BA from Old Dominion University and an MFA from New York University. She is the author of Rewilding (CavanKerry Press, 2018), recognized by Mass Center for the Book as a notable poetry collection for 2018; Misery Islands (CavanKerry Press, 2014), winner of a 2015 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence; and Underlife (CavanKerry Press, 2009). The recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, O'Neil was awarded a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant and was named the John and Renée Grisham Writer in Residence for 2019-2020 at the University of Mississippi, Oxford. She is an associate professor of English at Salem State University and holds board positions at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and Montserrat College of Art. O'Neil was the curator of a special series of Poem-a-Day from July 6–July 17, 2020, and lives in Beverly, Massachusetts. Source


A gray hoodie will not protect my son 

from rain, from the New England cold.


I see the partial eclipse of his face

as his head sinks into the half-dark


and shades his eyes. Even in our 

quiet suburb with its unlocked doors, 


I fear for his safety—the darkest child

on our street in the empire of blocks.


Sometimes I don’t know who he is anymore 

traveling the back roads between boy and man.


He strides a deep stride, pounds a basketball 

into wet pavement. Will he take his shot 


or is he waiting for the open-mouthed 

orange rim to take a chance on him? I sing 


his name to the night, ask for safe passage 

from this borrowed body into the next   


and wonder who could mistake him 

for anything but good.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Racial Injustice

Literary Devices:


an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference


visually descriptive or figurative language, especially in a literary work

Interrupted Clause

a word group (a statement, question, or exclamation) that interrupts the flow of a sentence and is usually set off by commas, dashes, or parentheses


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic