Five Poems by Holly Day

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.

Summer

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).