Penn O’Brien


This is a love poem.
Which in itself is not revolutionary, but maybe it should be.
This is a queer love poem,
To someone who is hesitant to call themselves lesbian.
Who is worried about taking up too much space in a space others believe is not meant for them.
But this poem isn’t about the others.
It’s about us.
Detailing how we fit together,
Intrinsically and through hard work.
Open and honest communication making a garden of my tongue,
Growing flowers with which to adorn their hair.
We are not two halves of a whole.
Each of us too much our own person to ever be incomplete.
We are creatures of the universe.
New and old,
Full of stories and stardust.
I swear I can see it shimmering in their galaxy eyes
And glowing from the constellation freckles on their face.
They are radiant.
Permanently lit by the light of the sun.
Gaze upon them.
As much a goddess as Athena and Aphrodite.
Still, we are human.
Perfect and imperfect in the truest way.
Houseplants with complicated emotions.
Brains full of chemicals and bodies that don’t quite fit us right.
But together we are trying.
Their arm draped over my stomach, my knees curled against their thighs, our fingers woven together.
My heart does not know love in the way others claim it is meant to,
But that will not stop me from loving them with every fibre of my imperfect being.
And as truly as I know this, I know that they love me too.



I breathe in poetry,
Feel it diffuse through my lungs,
The words clinging to my red blood cells.
I don’t know how to get them out
But it won’t be through my skin.
I’ll keep my blood where it belongs,
So I try to use my lungs instead.
Push the words back out into the air,
Attempting to get the metaphor of my body just right.
Because the only way I can handle it is in the abstract.
Separated from my self.
Always fracturing fun house mirror, never whole.
Pin it through the chest,
Make it sit still on the page for long enough for me to trace its outline.
Like it isn’t a shifting amorphous thing
That distorts into something new and differently horrific when I turn away.
It is at once too large and too small.
Not enough skeleton and too many bones.
Too much space and too many organs.
See me dissected,
Cut open and stitched back together.
But even that monster was made in the image of beauty.
Written by a woman to prove a point.
But I am not a woman,
Despite how this body presents me.
But I am No Man either,
So who has hurt me?
Blinded me to the truth of my body.
That it and I are one in the same.
This rickety house that I have inherited.
Unable to move so I’m left renovating.
Knocking down walls and dragging in new furniture.
Filling it with life and love,
So that it can be a home instead of a cage.
I grow houseplants in my bedroom to remind myself that some things are counting on me to live.
This would be a metaphor if this were a poem and not a confessional.
Chest spilling open to reveal cracked rib and fluttering lung.
How else to rid myself of this toxin?
Cutting venom from the wound
Is not how you cure a snakebite.
My body may never be just a body until I am gone, and it is sodden with earth and earthworms.
But until that day,
I will pick up the pieces of the mirror,
Careful not to cut myself,
And I will look at my body,
And finally see my reflection.



Penn is a young queer writer originally from Renmark in regional South Australia, and most interested in writing poetry and for theatre.