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Meg Day

Meg Day grew up in California’s Bay Area and received a BA from the University of California–San Diego, an MFA from Mills College, and a PhD from the University of Utah, where they were a Steffensen-Cannon Fellow and poetry editor for Quarterly West. They are the author of Last Psalm at Sea Level (Barrow Street, 2014), winner of the Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Award, a Lambda Literary Award, and finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. The are also co-editor of Laura Hershey: On the Life & Work of an American Master, published in 2019 as a part of The Unsung Masters Series through Pleaides Press. Day has received awards and fellowships from the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, the Lambda Literary Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship, Hedgebrook, the International Queer Arts Festival, and others. They teach at Franklin & Marshall College and live in Pennsylvania. 

 

By This Poet

9

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.