The Middle of the Night
There was an explosion and I came outside. I thought I had woken up
but because you were already on the porch, I must have been asleep. We must be dead.
We must have died in the explosion, everyone we know must have died
in the explosion, this is it, you said, and it was the metal voice of the vacuum cleaner
I embrace this end, infinity, us forever standing together
on the porch, waiting for the inevitable mushroom cloud
that comes with these types of explosions. I take your hand and
you pull away, a little angry, you don’t want to wait out
infinity with me. There is no mushroom cloud and I realize
there must have been some sort of accident, there are bodies everywhere,
no, there are just two. Some idiot had driven right through the stop sign on our block
and had crashed into the front of someone’s house. It was our house.
There are two bodies on the lawn. You are already on the porch, wide awake,
shouting to me to call the police. I must have stood there forever
with you telling me to call the police. I wanted to see the bodies up close,
to see if they were someone we knew, you said I shouldn’t touch them,
I’m not supposed to move someone so soon after an accident. I nod because
that’s what they say on TV, too.
The car appeared outside the house, as if by magic
dropped from the sky into a pile of snow, tire tracks obliterated by fresh snow.
A sleeping bag blocked the back window completely, candy wrappers
could be seen on the front seat.
After a couple of days, my neighbor came over and asked me if it was my car
if I wouldn’t mind moving it so that her nephew could park there. I told her
how the car had just appeared in that spot, and that I didn’t think anyone
had come back for it since its arrival, although
I thought I saw a couple of people sitting in the front seat very late the night before
hands frantically moving in the dim overhead light
but it may have been a dream.
A week or so later, a tow truck came and got the car, probably called by my neighbor
the one who came over or perhaps a different one entirely
the spot where the car had been parked was black and green with oil and antifreeze
dirty snow and a couple of smashed beer cans. I watched the car get pulled
backwards down the street, waited for a door to fling open angrily
in the car or in a neighboring house, but no one came out after the car
no one chased the truck frantically down the street.
The jellyfish flutter just below the surface of the water, clustered together so tightly
you could walk across them to the other side. You couldn’t really, of course,
you would sink right through them and end up underneath the seething cloud
of undulating tentacles, but it looks like you could just run over the top of them
if you were fast enough and light enough.
If you took a deep breath and lay flat on the swarm, on your back
arms stretched out on either side, you would probably float, and if you were lucky
the jellyfish would be clustered so tightly that the tentacles
wouldn’t touch you, and then, if you turned your head slightly
so that your ear was submerged, you could hear them sing. It’s like the buzzing of bees
or the thrumming of a hummingbird’s wings or a chorus of angry helicopters. Underwater, it’s much louder than even standing here on the shore, watching them pass.
If you were to plunge your hands into the cloud of jellyfish just right
you could wear two of them just like a pair of gloves, and you wouldn’t get stung.
You could do that with your feet, too, wear two jellyfish just like boots
and walk among them without worrying about being stung. The jellyfish you’re wearing
will tell the other jellyfish that you’re one of them. After a while, they’ll let you swim
in their cluster, let you continue to follow them out to sea under their protection.
I did not cause this and I cannot heal this. If our love was a church,
it would be a tangle of massive roots writhing
every day, and not just today. Fingers dig deep, and even
though I sometimes I think I’m lost without your sickness
there are fingernails digging into my fists clenched tight. I compensate
by digging into the soil, wiggling around in the dirt and
willing my heart into becoming the slowest of the slow.
I have tried so hard to smooth over the rough edges
struggled to placate the massive roots writhing, thick as snakes,
step aside to make way for other symptoms of destruction
phobias fluttering beneath the surface: once, you could look into my eyes,
and I into yours. But you, always, always had it worse. You
are a hard rule to set my own life against, even in times of brevity and bliss.
Out there, in the soil, the roots are coming to smooth over our rough edges.
Even sidewalks buckle under the onslaught of rippling phalanges.
Upon the Discovery of the Existence of Another Golden Calf
This is how God must have felt
looking down at His people dancing around the golden calf
when they thought His back was turned, surreptitiously kissing
fist-sized idols shoved deep in their pockets
when they thought He wasn’t looking
whispering heresy in one another’s ears
lies about other true gods that were nicer and better than Him
when they thought He couldn’t hear.
Myself, I am a maelstrom of anger and defeat
hands full of hotel receipts gathered from pockets
detailing lunch dates spent beneath cheap sheets
a second cell phone full of phone numbers I don’t recognize
matchbooks from nightclubs I’ve only seen advertised on TV.
I long to storm and gnash and wreak tidal vengeance
on all of these things that have separated him from me
blind him into submissions, into acceptance, but I
know that this is not the way to bring someone back to Love.
This hopelessness, this defeat, this slow burning of love letters
from a stranger somehow better than me.
Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Plainsongs, The Long Islander and The Nashwaak Review. Her newest poetry collections are ‘In This Place, She Is Her Own’ (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), ‘A Wall to Protect Your Eyes’ (Pski’s Porch Publishing), ‘Folios of Dried Flowers and Pressed Birds’ (Cyberwit.net), ‘Where We Went Wrong’ (Clare Songbirds Publishing), ‘Into the Cracks’ (Golden Antelope Press), and ‘Cross Referencing a Book of Summer’ (Silver Bow Publishing).