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Meg Day



When the grapevine had thinned

but not broken & the worst was yet to come

of winter snow, I tracked my treed heart

to the high boughs of a quaking

aspen & shot it down.

                                    If love comes fast,

let her be a bullet & not a barking dog;

let my heart say, as that trigger’s pulled,

Are all wonders small? Otherwise, let love

be a woman of gunpowder

 & lead; let her

arrive a brass angel, a dark powdered comet

whose mercy is dense as the fishing sinker

that pulleys the moon, even when it is heavy

with milk. I shot my heart

                                          & turned myself in

to wild kindness, left the road to my coffin

that seemed also to include my carrying it & walked

back along the trampled brush I remembered

only as a blur of hot breath & a howling in my chest.




When they took my breasts, I dreamt of Icarus

& woke each hour to the blurry hands & heads

of Briareus in a white coat struggling to keep my arms

from flapping & the mercury in its glass.

They had lost me on the table, or so Icarus said,

& in the slow-motion scramble for paddles

or pulse, we flung our bodies, arms widespread,

& flew a flat line to the sun in crimson exodus.

I, too, am the son of a craftsman, I told him later

at my bedside, a master of time & the pieces that keep it.

We spit, then, & shook, palms all wax & feather,

two brothers proved failures in such lineages of merit. 

That night he slept behind me, our curved spines yawning

& when the sun rose they punctured both lungs to keep me from drowning.


When the pain was too much, they gave me Icarus

& he’d sit beside me while they emptied my drains,

or sing refrains of Fugees covers while doodling airplanes

flying close to the sun. He’d question my sutures,

Are you killing him softly with your song? & fall

to the floor in fits of laughter, my smile brighter

when we knew the cancer’d gone. You’ll be lighter

without all that weight, he told me one night from the hall

& I lay alone in the dark watching the IV drip,

knowing he meant breasts & not the tumors that took them,

a flat-chested emblem of our future flight in tandem,

a handsome membership to— no, abandon ship.

I never wanted to be less woman. But I was

more monster than man, a leviathan in gauze.


When he fashioned my new breasts, Icarus did not use wax

or feathers, wristwatches or wings. He used caution & hesitation

& the cauterizing of things; he slapped warning labels on my decision,

instructed judgment to form a line at the door. If you relapse

it’ll be the last time, he continued, miming the surgeon, scalpel in hand.

I’ve always said hubris was stored in the chest & they stitched in my pride,

one bag for each side. Later, when the drains were replaced & the sutures retied,

he asked if I ever thought about death: Pearly gates? A big brass band?

When I die, he said, I hope I go in autumn; I hope I leave

with the heat of the sun still burned brown at my nape

& the thick gusts of equinox searing up under my cape;

I hope there is ocean enough for my scattering, & still sea left to grieve— 

O, how I’d come to crave the surprise of death instead of its prediction:

let me be amazed by my departure, let it be some unafflicted eviction.




On the third day, I wrote to you

about the sky, its elastic way  

of stretching so ocean-wide

that the only way to name it

was to compare it to Montana’s.

Lately, the sky is a ceiling

I wake to: broad & blank

& stubborn, stiff at the edges

like a fever cloth wrung out

& gone cold in the night, damp

with the wicking of latent ache.

But tonight I was walking

home along the coastline

& caught the huge moon

in my throat. There’s a man

somewhere on the planet

who has been to that moon,

who has stepped out of that sky,

& will never sleep the same

because of it. Will always be

sad or feel small, or wonder

how it is a person can be

a person, if being a person

is worrying about things;

whose eyes cannot see

what things are, but only

the slightness of them.

I think of writing to you

in this way—welcoming

the adventure of it—

& of being wrecked

proper, of being ruined.

-from Last Psalm at Sea Level (Barrow Street, 2014), selected by Spring 2024 Guest Editor Sheila Black. 

Meg Day is the author of Last Psalm at Sea Level (Barrow Street, 2014), winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and The Publishing Triangle's 2015 Audre Lorde Award, and a finalist for the 2016 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Day is the author of two chapbooks: When All You Have Is a Hammer (winner of the 2012 Gertrude Press Chapbook Contest), and We Can't Read This (winner of the 2013 Gazing Grain Chapbook Contest). In 2019, Day published an Unsung Masters volume, Laura Hershey: On the Life & Work of an American Master (Pleiades, 2019), with co-editor Niki Herd. Day's poems appear or are forthcoming in Best American Poetry 2020, The New York Times, POETRY Magazine, Prairie Schooner, AGNI, Beloit Poetry Journal, Drunken Boat, and Vinyl, among other journals, and in recent anthologies, including Best New Poets, Wingbeats II: Exercises & Practice in Poetry, We Will Be Shelter: Poems for Survival edited by Andrea Gibson, and Troubling the Line: Trans & Genderqueer Poetry & PoeticsDay was raised in northern California's Bay Area. Day holds a B.A. from the University of California, San Diego, an M.F.A. from Mills College, and a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing with an emphasis on Disability Poetics from the University of Utah where Day was a Steffensen-Cannon Fellow, a United States Point Foundation Scholar, and Poetry Editor for Quarterly West. The 2015-2016 recipient of the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship and a 2013 recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, Day has also received awards and fellowships from the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, the Sewanee Writers' Conference, The Amy Clampitt Fund, Lambda Literary Foundation, Hedgebrook, Squaw Valley Writers, the Taft-Nicholson Center for Environmental Humanities, and the International Queer Arts Festival. Day is Assistant Professor of English & Creative Writing in the MFA Program at North Carolina State University.

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