The Last Suitcase
I watched him float away like a single tuft of dandelion fluff
out of my arms and out of the house and into his own life
and then the door closed and I was alone. There was not one moment
in the past twenty years that I thought about this day
without thinking I’d be filled with relief, and joy, and the feeling
of a job well-done, or at least adequately done—
I was not prepared for the grief, the oppressive constant knot in my heart
the nagging feeling that there was so much I should have done
so many things I should have said
so many missed opportunities to let my son know
how wonderful he made everything for me
how I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now that he’s gone.
The Decorating Preferences of Starlings and Housewives
The voices of frogs are coming in through the air conditioner vents
so loud in the rain it sounds like they’re in here with us
perhaps hidden under the couch, or nestled in a comforter
clustered in a group of bright skin and gold eyes
watching us from the candy dish on the coffee table.
If it were up to me, the sinks would be overflowing with tadpoles
water lilies would sprout in the toilet, goldfish and catfish
would twist and turn in the bathtub. I would welcome otters and long-necked cranes
to my bedroom, move furniture aside to make room for them all.
But I have been told I can’t do any of this.
The sparrows are chirping so loud in the bushes outside
it sounds like their voices are coming from inside the kitchen cupboards
that if I were to open the cabinet to get out a pot or pan
a flock of tiny brown birds would flutter out in dismay.
If it were up to me, finches could build nests in the rack meant for cookbooks
weave intricate baskets around the curtain rods for their young
fight for nesting rights in the breadbox, its bounty of stale bread
but I have been told that these things cannot happen
I have been told that this never will be.
Across the Sea
In order to see the bottom of the ocean clearly, treasure hunters
blast high-powered streams of fresh water onto the exploratory site
push aside the sparkling silt and hovering clumps of algae
unlucky cephalopods and slow-paced starfish
long enough to expose the suspected pirate treasure or bit of sunken ship.
These boats scoot over the ocean, piloted by men reading
possibly fictional treasure maps, periodically blasting
new streams of water onto flat, undisturbed sand below, leaving
almost perfectly round blank patches far beneath the surface of the sea
like the massive footprints of some clumsy creature, too blind to see
the panic its random foraging across the ocean floor has caused.
The June bug beats its wings
against the kitchen window, noisily whirring
as if trying to get in, or at least
get my attention. I open the oven, pull out
the roast I’ve been cooking, wonder what it is
the little beetle wants, why it panics so.
There are certain odors that attract insects, perhaps
there is something in the combination of beef and carrots
sliced potatoes that makes a June bug think of love
or maybe it’s the perfume I’ve put on tonight
or maybe its mate has been squished
under the stack of Goodwill-destined boxes I’ve been filling all day.
There’s really no way to know.
I ladle the tender beef and vegetables onto my family’s plates
think of the beetle watching us through the window
imagine the panic I’d feel myself if it were me,
standing outside some stranger’s window
imagining I’d smelled my husband through a crack in the glass
lured in and taken by another woman
even one from another species.
The Last Stop
She comes into town with her limbs already removed
sanded smooth enough to safely palm, ready to mount.
in case there’s any confusion, she is a tree
cut and shaped into a bookshelf
carved callously to invoke thoughts of a living tree
some knobby stump in the forest
a knot and a bracket mushroom, a wall bracket.
More creatures from the forest join her in the storefront:
a stuffed squirrel poses on top of her, like squirrels did before she was cut
like this squirrel on other trees did before he was also cut down.
A perfectly round sphere shaped from the limb of another tree
or perhaps this same tree, sits on the other end of the shelf
poised so precariously, as if daring earthquakes.
Outside, false trees stretch high into the night
a forest of false moons, or perhaps false suns, tethered to each top.
There are squirrels here, too, but they don’t live in these steel trees
Instead, scuttle in the shadows, ignoble like rats
searching for half-eaten donuts and discarded apple cores.
Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and Harvard Review. Her newest poetry collections are Where We Went Wrong (Clare Songbirds Publishing), Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing), and The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press).