Contemporary American Voices

November’s Featured Poet – Holly Day



Holly Day-

The Poet

The ship crashes against the rocks and a poem
Forms in her head right as she flies over the railing
Something so perfect and beautiful it must be written down
Must be remembered. She invokes the first stanza

For the otters watching curiously from the rocks,
The seals lounging carelessly on the beach
The dolphins she knows must be lurking just past the shallows
Because there are always dolphins watching shipwrecks
And dolphins are smart and literate enough to understand.

She shouts the lines as clearly as she can
Despite the screaming of the other passengers
Despite the rending, grinding agony of the hull against the rocks
Despite the shrieks of the confused seagulls whirling overhead
Because she knows this is a poem that cannot be lost
And somebody has to be left behind to carry it on.


The Temporary Nature of Poetry

there’s no need to balance color
to be paced to a danceable beat

just turn the page
prepare the wooden frame
wrap the painting around your thoughts
pound the nails in one at a time

there’s no need to labor to match words
to music, to craft lyrics of need
just close your eyes
stop talking.


Under the Lights

I open my mouth and imagine birds are going to fly out
That inside me are flocks of birds that have struggled
With captivity for years. I will the birds to take form
Encourage them to force their way through my body, through my skin
Can almost feel their tiny claws struggling to find purchase
Along the slick, wet meat inside my chest.

Nothing comes out and I am empty, I don’t understand
I thought there was something better than me in here. The audience
Stares at me in impatient confusion from rows of folded metal chairs
they came here to see me do something special
they came to see something wonderful, or just something.
The bird song I thought I had dies in my throat, comes out finally

As only a croak, a whisper, a quiet and stuttering end.


The Funeral

I think about them dying and wonder
how I can be expected
to hand their bodies over to strangers
to be buried in a grave
far from home, far from me

when all I really want is to be allowed to
carry bits of them with me
for the rest of my own life
the fingerbones of children in my pocket
or on a string around my neck,
twin rosaries of vertebra wrapped loose
around my wrists

so I can raise my hands
to my lips, in prayer, to speak
to a husband
I will never let go


Beautiful Emptiness

I have spent too many nights
pantomiming nightmares—
I will not sleep
with her sweat on our sheets.

We will not get through this.
I am afraid to come home, afraid
that there is nothing left to tie us together.
I have spent too many nights listening to your breathing
with her sweat on our sheets.
You have me.

There will be no songs between us.
I have been drinking too many suicide songs
in your name, dreaming of walking in on you, on her–
we never existed.
I have spent too many nights
thinking of you to know

we will not get through this.
Together, but only
in my memory.


Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minnesota since 2000. Her published books include Music Theory for Dummies, Music Composition for Dummies, Guitar All-in-One for Dummies, Piano All-in-One for Dummies, Walking Twin Cities, Insider’s Guide to the Twin Cities, Nordeast Minneapolis: A History, and The Book Of, while her poetry has recently appeared inNew Ohio Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle. Her newest poetry book, Ugly Girl, just came out from Shoe Music Press.