When the grapevine had thinned
but not broken & the worst was yet to come
of winter snow, I tracked my treed heart
to the high boughs of a quaking
aspen & shot it down.
If love comes fast,
let her be a bullet & not a barking dog;
let my heart say, as that trigger’s pulled,
Are all wonders small? Otherwise, let love
be a woman of gunpowder
& lead; let her
arrive a brass angel, a dark powdered comet
whose mercy is dense as the fishing sinker
that pulleys the moon, even when it is heavy
with milk. I shot my heart
& turned myself in
to wild kindness, left the road to my coffin
that seemed also to include my carrying it & walked
back along the trampled brush I remembered
only as a blur of hot breath & a howling in my chest.
From Last Psalm at Sea Level (Barrow Street, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Meg Day. Used with the permission of the author.
Steamtown National Historic Site was created in 1986 to
preserve the history of steam railroading in America,
concentrating on the era 1850 through 1950.
We weren’t supposed to, so we did
what any band of boys would do
& we did it the way they did in books
none of us would admit we stole
from our brothers & kept hidden
under bedskirts in each of our rooms:
dropped our bicycles without flipping
their kickstands & scaled the fence
in silence. At the top, somebody’s overalls
snagged, then my Levi’s, & for a few deep
breaths, we all sat still—grouse in a line—
considering the dark yard before
us, how it gestured toward our defiance—
of gravity, of curfews, of what we knew
of goodness & how we hoped we could be
shaped otherwise—& dared us to jump.
And then we were among them,
stalking their muscled silhouettes as our own
herd, becoming ourselves a train
of unseen movements made singular,
never strangers to the permanent way
of traveling through the dark
of another’s shadow, indiscernible to the dirt.
Our drove of braids & late summer
lice buzz cuts pivoted in unison
when an engine sighed, throwing the moon
into the whites of our eyes & carrying it,
still steaming, across the yard to a boilerman,
her hair tied up in a blue bandana.
Somewhere, our mothers were sleeping
prayers for daughters who did not want women
to go to the moon, who did not ask
for train sets or mitts. But here—with the moon
at our feet, & the whistle smearing
the cicadas’ electric scream, & the headlamp
made of Schwinn chrome, or a cat’s eye
marble, or, depending on who
you asked, the clean round scar of a cigarette
burn on the inside of a wrist so small
even my fingers could fasten around
it—was a woman refilling the tender
in each of us. We watched her
the way we’d been told to watch
our brothers, our fathers:
in quiet reverence, hungry all the while.
Copyright © 2016 by Meg Day. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 29, 2016, this poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.
Even in this light, I can see
your want. A gulley appears
in the hard bare field between
those fenced brows & opens
into shallow beds tilled from temple
to temple as if the glut of a flood
had been swallowed to reveal
the land’s contour underneath.
Habit—or hurt—has made
your surface smooth (its true
smallholding kept submerged)
& I drink of this drought
like I’m told a new calf gasps
for air when its muzzle is cleaned
of that which had only just
kept it subsisting. Is it still
synesthesia if I have no choice
but to use my eyes as ears? You
laugh then, your teeth fitted
around the steady static grumble
of the sea below us, your eyes
a yes or no question I’ve waited
seasons to seed. Operator, are you
there? My hands have never been
so pleased to be my mouth, so
my mouth can be other things.
The moon is a sickle that swings
despite the plow’s augured return
& in my fingers is your name
I plant again & again in the ground.
Originally printed in The Enchanting Verses Literary Review: XXV. Copyright © 2017 by Meg Day. Used with the permission of the author.