I read through my son’s emails, wonder
at the beautiful things he’s written
to girls, wonder if his poetry
is as sincere and sweet and I believe him to be
or if he’s turning out to be some slick-tongued
manipulative creep. My little boy
once made me promise I would never die
because he didn’t want to be left alone
and I promised, because he was three
and I couldn’t stand to see him cry.
Now he hides his interest in girls
from me, writes beautiful letters that I would
have died to get from a boy when I was 12
this man he’s becoming is so strange to me.
sometimes it seems the closer we get to understanding each other,
something happens to collapse these thin card houses
of love even further than they were set up before. Fatal archer
you bend your body beneath me each night, you are
so completely without rhythm that the only
way either one of us can sleep is to leave. I
go into the spare bedroom, think of my mother
sit with my back to the wall and think of spouses
in my very own home, you’d think I’d be smarter
shouldn’t have to protect my heart from arrows far
flung, random strung. Your breath is the only lonely
lullaby for me, but sleep isn’t something I
signed up for in this marriage. I go lie beside
you when I know you’re asleep, hear you wake up hours
later: go away yourself. I don’t find comfort
or validation from this, I don’t get you, and
sometimes I think that’s how it’s just going to be. In
Heaven this will work, and all I know is, I’m not
patient enough to wait for Death’s blind eye to find
the bull’s-eye painted on my chest. All I want now
is for the strength to go away for good, for dirt
to fill the safe little hole I’m in, hourglass sand
to dull the echoes of this bell jar. Take my sins
wrap me in linen, spit on my grave, let me rot.
first bite of food after a 30-hour fast
a ripe peach, flesh firm, dripping sweet nectar
filling my throat. I know I ate more than that
peach, a sandwich, I think, but I don’t remember
whether it was salty pastrami on black rye
or sweet mustard and glazed ham
or just peanut butter and jelly on soft
store-bought white bread
all I can remember
is that peach.
(the lights down, just a little more, collect your things
go. throw a red scarf over the bulb by the bed—
wheel in the post-holocaust gig city model
and let the rats start the maze.) I’m walking in your
dreams, Mr. President, on a white beach bare feet
leaving no footprints in the sand. This piece of ass
is the only real person here tonight. Wings
of angels beat on the glass of the hotel, dead
to anything but our blind sins. (pour a couple
more buckets of homicide on the beach, cover
up the swollen corpses, Joe Public’s bloody feet.
kill the rats). I almost called you up again last
night, knew the phone was right by your head, but I knew
that thing in your bed was down visiting for the weekend
and would pick up the phone, collecting your calls—I
hugged the plastic receiver between my wet thighs
and pretended I was collecting pieces of
you through these dreams, it was you, down on me, all night.
(the Armageddon simulation will redo
itself tomorrow. Let’s call it a day. The end
of any era means that something has to die.
In a place by the ocean, the fake red skyline
reads “The End.” Armageddon, the lights go off. Logoff.
Clear the set, the blackened beach. It’ll be all right.)
I Know She Loved Me
all the other kids had sandwiches
in their lunchboxes, olive loaf, pimento
bologna. I’d hide my lunch from my friends
bury it deep in the rumpled-brown paper bag
cover green sushi rolls with my palm, pink shrimp puffs
sweet rice balls wrapped in sea weed. Every day, I begged
my mother to make me peanut butter crackers
ham on white, something normal.
my stepfather would hear me from his office and laugh
“Your mother’s a wonderful cook! They should be
so lucky to have her for a cook!” speak at length
of his childhood, his own mother’s disgusting attempts
at making jellied baby squid, peppered mussels so hot
they made your pee burn.
my mother would just sigh, suggest
tampopo for lunch, told me I could tell
the other kids it was just
chicken noodle. “You don’t know that their lunches
are any better than yours,” she’d chide
heaping mounds of steamed pea pods, caramelized ginger
and salt-and-pepper shrimp on my plate.
© Author 2011
Holly Day is a housewife and mother of two living in Minneapolis, Minnesota who teaches needlepoint classes in the Minneapolis school district. Her poetry has recently appeared in Hawai’i Pacific Review, The Oxford American, and Slipstream. Her book publications include The Book Of, A Bright Patch of Sunlight, Music Composition for Dummies, Guitar-All-in-One for Dummies, and Music Theory for Dummies, which has recently been translated into French, Dutch, Spanish, Russian, and Portuguese.