Self-Portrait with alcohol poisoning and holy water

After Kaveh Akbar

Sometimes I wonder if the room can smell

my thoughts, the stench of wine or whiskey

clings to me like wet clothes or a pet

that loves me, can’t stand not to

be in my presence. I am learning

to wobble again. How one foot

can be placed ever so slightly in front

of the other, halfway in the future

like go this way, don’t sway too far

from side to side, people are looking.

They can see the sin in my eyes. They feed

on my hurt the way clouds consume the sun.

Do you remember me sober? Do you remember

the way my laughter lingered in a room?

By ‘you’ I mean ‘I’.

Do I listen to the way my body settles at night?

Do I remember how it said no more?

How the last drink I took drowned me

like a child at birth, baptized, breathing in

too much water. How his cries fall mute in that ocean.


James O’Bannon was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio and currently resides in Fresno, California. He is a graduate of the Northern Kentucky University creative writing program and a current MFA candidate at Fresno State University. His writing has appeared in Spry Literary Journal and Flies, Cockroaches, and Poets.