January Gill O’Neil

February 13
— After James Schuyler

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day,
my birthday. But those
are tomorrow’s complications.  
I am not so jaded by the magic 
of snow, the tiniest flakes that swirl 
before spiraling to the ground. The sky 
a stretched-out cheesecloth
pulled taut over quiet houses.
Still winter. Walkways puddled 
with icy water from yesterday’s melt.
Is happiness a skill? The dog
sleeps curled like a croissant 
on the couch. Her soft gaze, 
how her tail wags when I simply
approach. Both of us expect less 
from the other and call it gratitude. 
I mark the passage of time in low light.


Be Mine 

We valentined our way through February
and at the center pulsed my holiday
birthday: red hearts, red cake, red letters
everywhere, a love-massacre with red balloons
hovering under our low vaulted ceilings.

Don’t buy red roses on Valentine’s Day
I told my ex-husband. They’re hothouse
and overpriced. What about a nice houseplant?
Maybe a pothos—Devil’s ivy—leaves splay 
wide like open palms. They’re hard to kill. 
And skip the candy boxes, with their heart-
shape and all their cream-filled randomness.  

For many years, I have been my own valentine—
treated myself like a special occasion,
I’d buy my own candy and flowers,
accept the handmade cards of my children
scrawled in crayon and called it enough. 

This morning I hear the snowplow’s scrape. 
Soon I will join my neighbors clearing
the driveway and sidewalk, lifting my back 
to the industry of snow. I am grounded 
to love—feeling it, being in it,  
even as I windmill the shovel above my head, 
letting the crystals fall into my face.  

From the Author: For the last few years, I have written February poems, specifically birthday poems. With a name like January and a birthday on February 14, there’s ample material to write about. It’s usually cold and snowy in New England, but I’m trying to create loose connections between poems and images—always leaning toward surprise and wonder.

January Gill O’Neil is an associate professor at Salem State University and the author of Glitter Road (February 2024), Rewilding (2018), Misery Islands (2014), and Underlife (2009), all published by CavanKerry Press. The recipient of fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Cave Canem, and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, O’Neil was the 2019-2020 John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi, Oxford. She currently serves as the 2022-2024 board chair of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP).