I remember picking up a fistful of sand, smooth crystals, like hourglass sand and throwing it into the eyes of a boy. Johnny or Danny or Kevin—he was not important. I was five and I knew he would cry. I remember everything about it— the sandbox in the corner of the room at Cinderella Day Care; Ms. Lee, who ran over after the boy wailed for his mother, her stern look as the words No snack formed on her lips. My hands with their gritty, half-mooned fingernails I hid in the pockets of my blue and white dress. How she found them and uncurled small sandy fists. There must have been such rage in me, to give such pain to another person. This afternoon, I saw a man pull a gold chain off the neck of a woman as she crossed the street. She cried out with a sound that bleached me. I walked on, unable to help, knowing that fire in childhood clenched deep in my pockets all the way home.
From Underlife by January Gill O'Neil. Copyright © 2010 by January Gill O'Neil. Used by permission of CavanKerry Press.
January Gill O'Neil
January Gill O’Neil is the author of Misery Islands (CavanKerry Press, 2014), winner of a 2015 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence, and Underlife (CavanKerry Press, 2009). She lives in Beverly, Massachusetts.
Date Published: 2010-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/early-memory