January Gill O'Neil

You can’t eat your cake and have it, too, says my boyfriend

and Ted Kaczynski, turning cliches into bombs. My boyfriend

who is not the Unabomber loves me from 1,300 miles away.

We dream over the phone, count the days until our next visit.

At Whole Foods before Valentine’s Day, I buy a red velvet cake

I’ll eat alone. A man walks out with a double dozen red roses

wrapped in cellophane. I miss my boyfriend. Can I eat my cake

and have it, too? Transposed verbs are what got Kaczynski caught—

his use of language, his arcane mind, but he wasn’t wrong.

What good is having a cake if you can’t eat it? That clumsy

phrase comes straight out of Middle English, straight from

my valentine’s red mouth. He long-distance laughs as I puzzle

the meaning but isn’t that the point? Love is a kind of syntax,

a soft rhyme, prison time. I’m eating my cake and having it, too.

Found In Volume 53, No. 01
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  • january o neil photo credit rachel eliza griffiths
January Gill O'Neil
About the Author

January Gill O’Neil is the author of Glitter Road (2024), Rewilding (2018), Misery Islands (2014), and Underlife (2009), all from CavanKerry Press. She is an assistant professor of English at Salem State University.