Welcome to this month’s edition of READ LOCAL First: Utah’s most comprehensive collection of accomplished poets and authors. This month we introduce you to deaf, genderqueer poet Meg Day. Day is the author of Last Psalm at Sea Level (Barrow Street, 2014), winner of the Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Award, and a finalist for the 2016 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. She is co-editor of Laura Hershey: On the Life & Work of an American Master (Pleiades, 2019).
The 2015-2016 recipient of the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship and a 2013 recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Poetry, Day’s work is forthcoming in Best American Poetry 2020 (available September 8). She lived in Salt Lake City and taught at the University of Utah as a graduate student from 2011-2015.
Today we bring you four previously published poems: Big Sky Domestic (The South Carolina Review), Aubade to Day (The Paris-American), Tell the Bees I’m Home (The Indiana Review), and Deaf Erasure of the Gospel According to the TSA Agent at Atlanta International (The New York Times).
Nowadays, Day is Assistant Professor of English & Creative Writing at Franklin & Marshall College. www.megday.com
Big Sky Domestic
The neighbors are watching teevee again
& the pale blue of Montana morning
licks the long wall of the bedroom
silently, each block of gauzy cerulean
a panel in a widescreen comic that will last
until dawn bleaches it bare. Even
as I linger on the lip of sleep in this porch
rocker, in this quilted haven—the headboard
pardoned of splinters, the clouds growing
squally above the bureau—something new
& tender has stitched itself satisfied
inside of you. Your belly swells in time
with the pendulum of the longcase
my father made himself & my mother
must have known this eery glow
of stucco sky when she sewed
the pinwheels that tilt when we exhale
in unison. I have not known worry
since the last time Montana ether appeared
in panorama through the window
& I woke remembering our children
might someday soon grow beyond themselves
& into men: her body into his, or her body
into his arms, a concordance that more
than once has been mistaken for else:
a mountain silhouetted in the distance
or merely the wallpapered shadow
of a secret self who has yet to find
their way from the mercy of the womb.
(This poem was originally published in The South Carolina Review.)
Aubade to Day
Last night I dreamt I’d forgotten my name
or driven it off like a fox through the split-rail
& into the long grass that can’t help but divulge
the direction of the wind. More than once,
I’ve been without—& more than once I’ve run
my padded bones along the braided bottom teeth
of summer, confusing heat with light & feeling
for the peak that christens predators with sharper
tongues than prey. There are some shades of night
so tender they swallow sound without chewing.
Pretend this is the first time you’ve seen me
crouch & tuck my hands under the resting scaffold
of a body limp with sleep, or worse. Pretend
your teeth don’t pull flesh from the peach’s pit
the way maggots eat around the tendons that hold
the heart inside the chest of the fawn felled by a fox
in the soundless down of that black yard. Where
is the sun! Look at the long grass open like a wound
where this small life left an even gentler night. Can
you see its blood across the door of my chest
like a promise? Can you hear me screaming my last
name into its neck as if it would turn the earth?
(This poem was originally published in The Paris-American.)
Tell the Bees I’m Home
The telling of the bees, a traditional English custom, requires the head of household to inform her colony of each family death by knocking on the hive or risk losing the bees & their honey.
Elsewhere, there’s a party
of familiars waiting to welcome my grandmother back
from the aperture of aspiration & she is the only one
at the nursing home who sees them; here
in the front yard—
where my grandmother sunbathes in a nylon chair still soaked
with baby oil & hums oldies with tin foil on her knees & tells me
to lay my small face against the stubble
of the crabgrass
so I will know how kissing a grown man can hurt—I have
similar vision. None of this exists: the bright sex of trash
we heaped sweet & ripe on curbs;
the Ponderosa still pitching
sap into my waist-length curls; the brown wool sectional moved
the width of the duplex to hide shoe polish in the carpet. We are
a narrowing pupil, a black hole,
some collapse deep in the hive
whose queen went missing long before anyone noticed
the milk in the oven or my grandmother’s eyes dowsing faces
for names. After they moved her,
we pulled the wallpaper
from the back room &, like her memory, under each layer
some stranger’s sensibilities hid intact. I, too, have been gone
so many years I have no truer reality
to offer; I am stung only
by the illusion my absence must have made me. It has been night
in the city of my grandmother’s brain for so long we are all
sundowning at every break of another day
& who would not offer up their name to keep swallowing
unforgettable? Tell the bees I’ve come: to memorize the kitchen
edged with white geese in bonnets
& the face whose DNA
might someday make me forget my own. Tell the bees I’m home—
so they’re certain nothing has changed—& she is still gone, but
in my coming, gone further, gone fast.
(This poem was originally published in The Indiana Review.)
Deaf Erasure of the Gospel According to the TSA Agent at Atlanta International
This is the good news: [inaudible]
& we have a plan for you. Can you follow
what I’m saying? Follow me. Bless you,
[inaudible], there’s no need to [inaudible].
Doesn’t this happen to you all the time?
[Inaudible]. I said step in here. Why would you—
copy. Copy that, I’m here with—yes I’m here
with [inaudible] now. Like I was saying before,
I’m not here to preach [inaudible]. You are
what you are. Even Jesus wasn’t believed
& it’s not like he could put some marker
on his drivers license. Have you had the [inaudible]?
My cousin had the [inaudible]. But the other
way. Spread your [inaudible]. A little farther
down the line & I would’ve been Paul
or [inaudible] back from his lunch break.
That’s the power of [inaudible] right there.
Somebody’s looking out for you today. Next time
you might not—[inaudible]. Copy. Copy
that. I’m going to place my fingers here & then
they need the room. [Inaudible]. Okay that’s
enough. I need to go & tell them what I’ve seen.
(This poem was originally published in The New York Times.)
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