Poetry Drawer: The Disagreeable Ocean Between Us: The Stag in the Lake: A New Pattern: Inhouse Mail: Greasy by Holly Day

The Disagreeable Ocean Between Us

I wonder if my son, when he’s out getting the paper or a cup of coffee
if he stops and talks to squirrels or rabbits or dogs
like he did when he was little, like I always did with him
if he stops to chirp at sparrows, throw them bits of donut
or if he’s forgotten to notice these things, he just sips his coffee
thinks of grown-up things.

And I wonder if, when he’s out with friends late at night
coming back from the bar and laughing too loud for the quiet surroundings
if he points out the startled frogs that leap across their path
to huddle in the damp, dewy grass, trapped by footfalls on one side,
heavy traffic on the other?
Does he stop walking, stoop down by the grass
carefully pick up the frightened frogs and set them safely
on the other side of the sidewalk, where they can disappear
into the taller, dark growth of garden plants and hedges?
Or are these things invisible to him now, as they seem to be
to so many other adults I know?

And I wonder, if, among his friends
there is just one girl who sees him
almost stop to greet a squirrel
or rescue a frog
or toss a surreptitious pocket cracker to a lone speckled pigeon
and knows that she is not alone in her own love for this world
sees that same love hidden
in the eyes of this boy I used to know?

The Stag in the Lake

The stag stumbled out onto the lake in the middle of the night
fell through the thin crust of ice halfway across. He must have floundered
for hours out there, cut a path through the lake until the ice grew too thick
for his hoofs to crush through. He might have made it if it had been daytime
the sun might have kept him alert enough to make it to the far shore,
where he could have stumbled out, shook himself, jumped
and leapt to the beach until he was warm enough
to run through my parents’ yard to some safe spot in the forest next door.

But because it was night, he may have lost time swimming around in circles
thrashing against the same patch of ice again and again in an attempt
to reach a far shore he could not see, the flashing lights of passing cars
bouncing off the water as late-night traffic thundered down the nearby freeway.
Sometime during his struggle, he gave up and just froze in place
one foreleg stretched out on the ice, a pair of broad antlers
preventing his head from sinking below the ice.

There was a good month where one could walk out onto the ice
right up to the frozen stag, stare straight into its glassy, black eyes
touch it if you wanted to—I never did. My dad talked about taking a hacksaw out
cutting the antlers off and making something out of them, some kind of
outsider wall art, but in the end decided against disturbing the animal’s corpse
mostly because my son started crying about the poor deer, that poor deer.

It disappeared overnight during a freak thaw, slipped free from the ice
and carried away by some sudden current from the nearby spring.
My son was convinced that the deer had finally gotten free
and run away, swam to safety to the other side of the lake
and because I’m not a monster, I told him he was probably right.

A New Pattern

I feel the knots and scratches on my husband’s back
and I can’t stop touching them, tracing them with my fingertips
in a mimicry of romantic caressing. They don’t feel like
fingernail scratches, don’t feel like anything
but random bumps. “You should start putting lotion on your skin,”
I blurt out, wanting him to turn over so I can see his back
get a look at these marks I keep feeling, reassure myself.
“I can do it for you, if you’d like.”

“I bumped into a machine at work,” says my husband
a little irritably, he’s try to get me to cum
and I’m obviously distracted.
“You can take a look at them later.”

I close my eyes and tell myself that the reason I married this man
was because I didn’t have to worry about the things
bumping around in the back of my head, I force myself
to completely succumb to trust. I do trust him.
There are too many leaves in this book of mine
dedicated to past betrayals, heartbreak, denial, surprise
that being in this place, with this man,
is an unexpected happy ending, almost too good to be true.

Inhouse Mail

I’d find his letters to my mother in the most unexpected places
shoved under the mattress in their bedroom,
tucked between the desk and the wall
as if it had slipped and gotten stuck there,
sometimes, just lying out on the kitchen table, as if opened and read
just minutes before. I couldn’t help read them, because I was a kid
and I just read everything, I was a snoop.

From those letters,
I learned that all of their hand-holding in public,
the proclamations of love,
it was all a lie. It was a fantastic performance.

Years later, when my sister started drafting her suicide notes
she also would leave them in unexpected places,
half-written under her mattress, balled up in the trash can in our bedroom
folded up and stashed with her homework, shoved in the bottom of her purse.
Having learned already to accept all smiles and outward signs of happiness
as lies, the subsequent drafts never surprised me,

and, like the evolution of letters that led to my parents’ divorce,
the evolution of suicide notes into that last one
spread out on the coffee table, waiting for me
when I got home from school
barely needed reading, I already knew what it said.


He goes out to the bar just so he can tell real women
all of the things that are wrong with them, point out
the dirt under their nails, their dried-out hair
the way half their lipstick is worn off after a couple of beers.
Because most women are conditioned to take such comments
as helpful instead of insulting, they just nod and smile
wonder why they aren’t even good enough
for this lonely slob at the bar.

When he gets bored of judging human women, he goes back home
to his apartment full of quiet sex dolls, all posed
in front of the television, which he left on for them
considerately. He doesn’t even bother getting a beer
when he comes home—he doesn’t need beer
to talk to these ladies. They already understand him
they already and always know just what he wants.

Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Analog SF, Cardinal Sins, and New Plains Review, and her published books include Music Theory for Dummies and Music Composition for Dummies. She currently teaches classes at The Loft Literary Center in Minnesota, Hugo House in Washington, and The Muse Writers Center in Virginia.

Leave a Reply