Like Snakes on Asphalt by Holly Day

Like Snakes on Asphalt

 

My father’s horizon was always

Nebraska, he never grew past being

a tiny spot surrounded by miles

of cattle-flattened silage

stunted sagebrush.

 

I don’t know the names of either

of my horizons, can only guess

at who lives in the row of dark houses

across the street. I am also

 

an unnecessary pinpoint

surrounded by flat, black asphalt

waves of heat radiating from

crumbling tar.


Harvest

 

we found the tomatoes grew best in the cemetery

sending their thick roots deep

into the soil, wrapping thickly-furred cilia between

sinew and bone, found new life in places

left for the dead.

 

we threw our seeds random between

the overgrown plots, hoping the tiny plants would escape

the eyes of the caretaker, the blades of his mower

the heavy footsteps of other people

visiting other graves.

 

late summer, when the vines rose high

climbed around the rough trunks

of ancient willows of firs

we crept into the graveyard, baskets under our arms

collected enough ripe fruit to last through

the long, cold winter ahead.


Your Hand in Mine

 

The sun shines brightly as your voice

is still in the air, subtle constant

a warning echo of your passage. That day

smiling at somewhere

is a photograph of me.

 

Leaves appear on trees as conversations

slowly unfold green between us

as timorous as field mouse paws

resting delicately on plastic garbage bags

filled with possibility.

 

I long to face this spring dead-on, reconstruct

these last death throes of love

as anything but.


Coming Home from the Hospital

 

She bumps against me in the seat and I wonder

what would happen if I took her, this girl

too young to be riding on the bus by herself

too young to be so close to so many strangers.

I smile and scoot over farther to make room for her to sit

 

imagine she’s my daughter, that I have a daughter

wonder if the other passengers already think she’s here with me.

I press myself up against the latched window

wonder what our life would be like together

I could pop the emergency release

grab her and run.


Bad Things Happened

 

We could feel the spirits only when we sat by the

walls. There was something left behind by those who sat

just there, under His eyes, in the back row of hard, wooden pews

the fear of God. There was such an obvious difference between where

the good Christians and the bad Christians sat in that place.

 

They were as powerful as they were exotic, the ghosts

of terror, His omniscience, the flapping of stained sheets

just out of sight. Their eyes bent spades into old train cars

huddled shadows in the rusty quiet, dreams of wheels turning.

 

I wanted so badly to stand in the room as a light

to take a small bit of their pain into me and survive it all

next time. There are bodies in the lake out back

that need to be counted. My visions can wait

but He will never come.


Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and Harvard Review.

 

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