“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.

Table of Contents | Next Page