Angela Alaimo O’Donnell: Three Poems by Featured Poet





          “She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr

           if they killed her quick.”

                     —Flannery O’Connor

So many ways to go, it’s hard to say.
Cracked on the rack, hanged and beaten,
boiled in oil, flayed and splayed, eaten
by beasts starved for your skin. Any way
seems rough. It’s persistence that counts,
how long you can stand it. The pain
being less than the terror. It amounts
to grit and nerve. And if you’re insane
it helps. When they set you on fire,
pound in the nails, cut out your heart,
you’ll smile, though your prospects are dire,
praise your butcher plying his art.
You can savor the taste of the trauma.
Sit back and enjoy the drama.


          “Picture me with my ground teeth stalking joy.”

                     —Flannery O’Connor

Quick step on the stick of the wooded path,
I step quick back as if to undo sound,
as if the soul I stalk could hear past
the raucous song of herself unfound.
She runs these woods like an unkept child,
her clothes mismatched, her brown feet bare,
both eyes blazing and both eyes wild,
fire in her mind and fire in her hair.
Picture me chasing that crazy girl,
shinnying trees, leaping ravines,
hoving stones, the heft and the hurl
aching my arms while the wet wind keens.
I won’t stop. And she won’t stay.
We both seem to like it that way.


          “God made me thisaway—I don’t dispute hit.”

                    —Flannery O’Connor, “A Temple of the Holy Ghost”

Me, with my moonface and my thinning hair,
these coca-cola lenses that let me see
the mighty world and all that’s in it. There
is so much sorrow, so much beauty
set down before us, a farmer’s lunch
you’ve gotta eat or choose to starve—
fried chicken, steamed okra, snap beans whose crunch
in my mother’s teeth irks me. It’s par for
the course—the long days we live together,
neighborly gossip, talk of the weather,
so much unsaid we have to endure.
Some days I doubt. But others I’m sure
this is the life you meant me to lead.

It’s the way of the human heart to bleed.

Angela Alaimo O’Donnell is a professor at Fordham University, where she teaches English, Creative Writing, and American Catholic Studies. In addition, she serves as Associate Director of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies. O’Donnell is the author of seven books of poetry and three books of prose. Her poems have also appeared in many journals, including Alabama Literary Review, America, Christian Century, Comstock Poetry Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, Potomac Review, Verse Wisconsin, and Xavier Review.

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