Published on Academy of American Poets (


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.


Originally published in Green Mountains Review. Copyright © 2015 by January Gill O’Neil. Used with the permission of the author.


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: 2015-01-01

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