Three poems by Liam Day
Friday Night Open Studio in SoWa
Do armadillos shed or live in trees?
The short answers are no, their armor
is bone and they burrow, not climb,
but the knowledge comes with a sell-by date,
which means, by extrapolation, it was
made, assembled, brewed or caught
and frozen in the not too distant past,
which in itself means it contains
very little of what we call philosophy.
So, for the moment, let’s pretend they might.
What then, if armadillos shed,
would that entail and what would be
the consequences, running as they would
like water off pitched pavement?
To wit: what are the armadillo’s predators,
how long does it take to grow new exoskeleton
and where, exposed for that length of time,
would it hide from the animals that hunt it?
Answers to ancillary questions are like
membranes that protect elements,
which, in turn, become isotopes
with every electron they attract.
In due course they decompose
and we can only hope their half-lives
are longer than the life-expectancy of
small, well-to-do European nations.
Neighbors enlist national interest groups
to resist storing radioactive material
near their kids, and though I can’t
blame them, they’d be more accommodating
if they were looking at what I was:
a thick tree with heavily veined bark,
gnarled limbs and, hanging from it,
beards of moss and husks of hornets’ nests
that could, if we let them, be what
tree-climbing armadillos shed.
She doesn’t like it when I look at her,
can’t sleep when pillow-propped next to her I stare;
her eyes pop open from the deepest sleep.
She won’t read with me at her shoulder or e-mail
when I’m behind her on the rutted rug we lay
to stop the chair from rolling the uneven floor.
She won’t lend me the books
in which she’s written in the margins
or repeat what she mutters to herself at hearing’s edge.
She won’t let me in the bedroom when she dresses,
in the kitchen when she cooks,
in the bathroom when she brushes her teeth.
And she absolutely cannot stand it when I tell her,
I know, I know, I know. Imagine it, though,
in a voice you’d use to talk to your dog or another couple’s baby.
She hates that voice, tells me when I use it that
that’s all I know, but I can tell by the smile curling
the corners of her mouth, she knows I know more,
that despite her efforts I’ve wriggled my way in.
Runoff drips from the porch’s overhang
into puddles collecting in hollows on the top step.
The ripples’ reflections are cast on the railing’s
white-painted slats by a sun so bright
shadows acquire depth easily confused for heft.
An airplane’s wash has the sky to dissipate, but,
puddles the size of saucers, waves have two,
maybe three perfect rings before reaching the extent
of each minor depression in the warped wood.
We naively believed there are no limits—
to life, dreams, talent—but the universe’s end
was foreseen in collapse, the pull of matter
too strong to overcome. Yet, even the galactic specks
we glimpse through intently-focused glass
now flee from us faster than ever. It was only
in the third act, then, we realized the reason
we weren’t assigned a soliloquy. We were never
still or spotlit long enough to find the mark, but
instead shuffled on and off like players in a massive,
nine-hour, repertory production whose dramatis personae
lists more characters and actors to play them
than patrons who attended, are attending or
will attend the not unsurprisingly limited run.
Still, we recite our handful of lines with
cringe-inducing brio, rattling the seats
in the small theater’s back row. It’s the best we can do.
Besides, our parents, though they know there
are, in fact, limits, have known, much longer
than we have, our precise ones, are there.
They’ll grow tired, sneak out at intermission
for a bite at the Chili’s they spied down the street
on their way into the theater, but by then
your wife’ll have arrived. She’s tired too,
in a different way. For her you go back on,
but the few lines you had you’ve delivered and
all there is now is to linger upstage, watch
other players enter and exit, puddles catch
the runoff’s drip, the universe expand
through the wrong end of a telescope.
Liam Day is a graduate of the Bread Loaf School of English. He lives in Boston with his wife, Nicole. His work has appeared previously in Beginnings and Slow Trains.