Holly Day

What Keeps You Going

Close your eyes and concentrate,
and swing. Connect. Feel the way the blade slides so
clean through whatever
you touch, wherever you touch,
clean through. This is what warriors
do. This is who you are. Inhale
and hold your breath, exhale with the
kill. Feel your breath leave your body like the steam
of a train, of a steam engine, pushing

you forward to the end. All around you
is the end of the world, just beyond the darkness

of your eyelids. If you open your eyes you will be face-
to-face with
devastation, an empty room, so much blood. Keep
them closed forever, against the light, the tally of your
crimes, your task,
the things that will haunt you past death. Only soldiers
that keep their eyes closed will make it
past today, only you will make it past tomorrow.

Keep your eyes closed. Follow
the orders in your head.
Don't think about what just happened, what you
did, what you're going to do. Get a good night's
sleep. Keep your chin up.

Birds Fly

I wave my right hand
and the bus appears. I wave my left
and it disappears in a rumble
of choking smoke and verbal abuse.
I sit back down on the bench
let my cat out of its carrier
take my shoes off and shut my eyes.

I wake to find my cat has brought me
another dead bird, eyes bloodied
beak still cracked in a final silent
"cheep." I cradle the ruffled mess of feathers
in my arms, think of kittens and babies
my grandmother boiling the feathers off of
giant white chickens
the trek of dinner from a down-lined nest
to a plate on a table.

I close my eyes and will
my own wings to unfold, feel their stillborn nubs
twitch vainly beneath my skin. I am too heavy now
to fly even with wings. Too heavy, too old.
I dream of the cherub I could have been
if I had been born in a nest lovingly assembled
of twigs and mother-scented fluff.

Metal on Metal

we watch the last clouds of radioactive gas
fade from a yellow-green glow to a thin white mist
talk about how someday, we can grow a garden again
after the ground has recovered from the heat of the blast.

a thin, hot wind blows across the blackened earth
that used to be our front lawn. I sigh and lean
my head against your shoulder, push against the ground
make the porch swing rock with the new breeze.

after the sun disappears, we go inside, get ready for bed
complain about all the new, mysterious clinking sounds
that have come with old age, check each other's bodies
for signs of rust, tighten loose screws, go to sleep.

The Time

how many years have to pass between us
before I can tell my husband how much I love him, how much
I truly need him to be here with me, how
every second we're separated I think of him, think of the way he smells
tell him how I'd be dead without him beside me at night

of how often I think of the day we won't be together, that I think about
the day I wake up and find him cold and stiff, how I imagine his face
will look when he wakes up to find me dead
the stories we'll tell at each other's funerals
how I imagine the silence of the house without him

how long do we have to be together before I can talk
frankly with him about love, and death, and what I want him to do
after me, the things I wish would go on without me
the things I plan to do when he's gone.

The Land-Grab in My Yard

the sparrows stay in control of the feeder, holding strong
against the immigrant waves of bright yellow goldfinches
and meek brown gnatcatchers. the sparrows take their post
first thing in the morning, every morning, before the sun
hold their positions until just before dusk.

at night, tiny house wrens and sapsuckers congregate
to glean what remains of the birdseed, glance
furtive at me to see if I'm there to chase them away. I wait
until they've finished their meal, go out to the feeder and shake loose
the empty husks of millet and sunflowers pooling in the bottom

refill it from the fifty-pound bag of wild bird seed
prepare for the next morning.

Copyright © 2013 Holly Day

Holly Day is a housewife and mother of two living in Minneapolis, Minnesota who teaches needlepoint classes for the Minneapolis school district and writing classes at The Loft Literary Center. Her poetry has recently appeared in The  Worcester Review, Broken Pencil, and Slipstream, and she is the recipient of the 2011 Sam Ragan Poetry Prize from Barton College. Her most recent published books are "Walking Twin Cities" and "Notenlesen für Dummies Das Pocketbuch."