10 AM is When You Come to Me

In some other life, I can hear you
breathing: a pale sound like running
fingers through tangled hair. I dreamt
again of swimming in the quarry
& surfaced here when you called for me
in a voice only my sleeping self could
know. Now the dapple of the aspen
respires on the wall & the shades cut
its song a staff of light. Leave me—
that me—in bed with the woman
who said all the sounds for pleasure
were made with vowels I couldn’t
hear. Keep me instead with this small sun
that sips at the sky blue hem of our sheets
then dips & reappears: a drowsy penny
in the belt of Venus, your aureole nodding
slow & copper as it bobs against cotton
in cornflower or clay. What a waste
the groan of the mattress must be
when you backstroke into me & pull
the night up over our heads. Your eyes
are two moons I float beneath & my lungs
fill with a wet hum your hips return.
It’s Sunday—or so you say with both hands
on my chest—& hot breath is the only hymn
whose refrain we can recall. And then you
reach for me like I could’ve been another
man. You make me sing without a sound.

More by Meg Day

The Permanent Way

            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.
 

      

If You’re Staying, I’ll Stay Too

Maybe it’s easier, having been named
            after someone: nobody
expects that you’ll rule the underworld
            or judge the dead, but
they call you Pluto anyway. Planet, too.
            I know a girl like you
who used to be a thing she isn’t anymore
            but hasn’t changed at all.
Whose orbit didn’t circle straight—whose
            size & distance never quite
seemed right—but no one cared til now.
            I was a woman once:
rounded by my own gravity, cat-called
            into hades by men who
could not see this gem of a hard rock
            was not made magnetic
for the likes of them. Hey little mama
            don’t take it so hard.
So we are frigid. So we stay relegated
            out here with our kin.
I’ll wear my fade tight & my tie loose
            if you play your radio loud.
They say we’re known only in comparison
            to that which surrounds
us, so I’d guess they’ll hear our signal soon.
            I was a woman once,
but that’s not the farthest thing from the sun
            another universe might’ve
let me be: another universe might’ve let us be.

Listening in the Dark

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.

Related Poems

Aria

Tonight at a party we will say farewell
to a close friend’s breasts, top surgery for months
she’s saved for. Bundled close on a back step,
we wave a Bic lighter and burn her bra.
At first struggling to catch nylon aflame,
in awe we watch as all but the sheer black
underwire melts before forming a deep
quiet hole in the snow.

                                      Sometimes the page
too goes quiet, a body that we’ve stopped
speaking with, a chest out of which music
will come if she’s a drum flattened tight, if she’s
a canvas pulled across a frame, a field
where curves don’t show, exhalation without air.
Then this off-pitch soprano steals through.

 

*

 

Then this off-pitch soprano steals through
a crack that’s lit. A scarlet gap between
loose teeth. Interior trill. We’re rustling open.
Out of a prohibited body why
long for melody? Just a thrust of air,
a little space with which to make this thistling
sound, stretch of atmosphere to piss through when
you’re scared shitless. Little sister, the sky
is falling and I don’t mind, I don’t mind,
a line a girl, a prophet half my age,
told me to listen for one summer when
I was gutless, a big-mouthed carp that drank
down liters of algae, silt, fragile shale
while black-winged ospreys plummeted from above.

 

*

 

While black-winged ospreys plummeted from above,
we were born beneath. You know what I mean?
I’ll tell you what the girls who never love
us back taught me: The strain within will tune
the torqued pitch. In 1902 the last
castrato sang “Ave Maria.”
His voice—a bifurcated swell. So pure
a lady screams with ecstasy, Voce
Bianco! Breath control. Hold each note. Extend
the timbre. Pump the chest, that balloon room,
and lift pink lips, chin so soft and beardless,
a flutter, a flourish, a cry stretching beyond
its range, cruising through four octaves, a warbler,
a starling with supernatural restraint.

 

*

 

A starling with supernatural restraint,
a tender glissando on a scratched LP,
his flute could speak catbird and hermit thrush.
It was the year a war occurred or troops
were sent while homicide statistics rose;
I stopped teaching to walk out, my arms linked
to my students’ to show a mayor who didn’t
show. Seven hundred youth leaned on adults
who leaned back. We had lost another life
to a bullet in the Fillmore, Sunnyside,
the Tenderloin. To love without resource
or peace. When words were noise, a jazz cut was steel.
I listened for Dolphy’s pipes in the pitch dark:
A far cry. Epistrophy. A refusal.

 

*

 

A far cry. Epistrophy. A refusal.
A nightingale is recorded in a field
where finally we meet to touch and sleep.
A nightingale attests
as bombers buzz and whir
overhead en route to raid.
We meet under cover of brush and dust.
We meet to revise what we heard.
The year I can’t tell you. The future restages
the past. Palindrome we can’t resolve.
But the coded trill, a fever ascending,
a Markov chain, discrete equation,
generative pulse, sweet arrest,
bronchial junction, harmonic jam.

 

*

 

Bronchial junction, harmonic jam,
her disco dancing shatters laser light.
Her rock rap screamed through a plastic bullhorn
could save my life. Now trauma is a remix,
a beat played back, a circadian pulse you can’t shake,
inherent in the meter we might speak,
so with accompaniment I choose to heal
at a show where every body that I press against
lip syncs: I’ve got post-binary gender chores . . .
I’ve got to move. Oh, got to move. This box
is least insufferable when I can feel
your anger crystallize a few inches away,
see revolutions in your hips and fists.
I need a crown to have this dance interlude.

 

*

 

I need a crown to have this dance interlude
or more than one. Heating flapjacks you re-
read “Danse Russe,” where a man alone and naked
invents a ballet swinging his shirt around
his head. Today you’re a dandier nude
in argyle socks and not lonely as you
slide down the hall echoing girly tunes
She-bop doo wop . . . an original, domestic
butch. The landlord is looking through
the mini-blinds. Perched on a sycamore,
a yellow-throated warbler measures your
schisms, fault lines, your taciturn vibrato.
Tonight, as one crowd, we will bridge this choir.

From the Desire Field

I don’t call it sleep anymore.
             I’ll risk losing something new instead—

like you lost your rosen moon, shook it loose.

But sometimes when I get my horns in a thing—
a wonder, a grief or a line of her—it is a sticky and ruined
             fruit to unfasten from,

despite my trembling.

Let me call my anxiety, desire, then.
Let me call it, a garden.

Maybe this is what Lorca meant
             when he said, verde que te quiero verde—

because when the shade of night comes,
I am a field of it, of any worry ready to flower in my chest.

My mind in the dark is una bestia, unfocused,
             hot. And if not yoked to exhaustion

beneath the hip and plow of my lover,
then I am another night wandering the desire field—

bewildered in its low green glow,

belling the meadow between midnight and morning.
Insomnia is like Spring that way—surprising
             and many petaled,

the kick and leap of gold grasshoppers at my brow.

I am struck in the witched hours of want—

I want her green life. Her inside me
in a green hour I can’t stop.
             Green vein in her throat green wing in my mouth

green thorn in my eye. I want her like a river goes, bending.
Green moving green, moving.

Fast as that, this is how it happens—
             soy una sonámbula.

And even though you said today you felt better,
and it is so late in this poem, is it okay to be clear,
             to say, I don’t feel good,

to ask you to tell me a story
about the sweet grass you planted—and tell it again
             or again—

until I can smell its sweet smoke,
             leave this thrashed field, and be smooth.

This Is What Makes Us Worlds

Like light but
in reverse we billow.

We turn a corner
and make the hills
disappear.

You rearrange
my parts until no
more hurting.

No more skin-sunk
nighttime fear.

No more blameless death.

My hair loses its atoms.
My body glows
in the dark.

Planets are smashed
into oblivion,
stripped of their power
to name things.

Our love fills the air.

Our love eats
the deadly sounds men
make when they see
how much magic
we have away
from them.