Ailey O’Toole

The Things I Can't Tell You

I want to say I’m sorry
about your dad, because mine
is always leaving, too, and
I know how hard it is,
to be the one left behind. 
I want to say tell me about
the heartbreak,
the one that drove you to
boxing, the one from the poems. 
I want to say let me tell you
about the heartbreak
that drove me to a bottle
of klonopin, plus a handful
of thirty other pills, or let me
tell you about the boy who
convinced me I should be
anyone but myself. 
I want to say tell me what
you’re scared of, because I’m scared
of bikes, of car accidents,
of dying alone. I want to say
tell me what you want from me,
tell me where you see this going
because that’s something I’m scared
of, too. But I’ve spent so long
being told to not feel, being told
not to talk about feeling,
that I don’t know if I could
ever say all of this. Maybe
that’s why I’m writing this poem:
so I can slip it under your
pillow, hope you’ll find it in
the morning, hope you’ll read
it, hope you’ll want me, still.


Ailey O'Toole is a queer poet and bartender who writes about empathy, pain, and feminism. She hopes everyone who reads her poems can find a piece of themselves in them and feel a little less alone. Her work has previously appeared in The Odyssey, The Broke Bohemian, After the Pause, and forthcoming from the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review. You can follow her adventures @ms_ocoole.