Describing the Monarchs

“Too bad that ‘bloom’ is overused,” you say
As we stand beneath a eucalyptus tree,
Your arm around me, head bent back to see
The monarchs celebrating New Year’s Day.
“And ‘burn’ is wrong, and ‘rust’ suggests decay,
But I like ‘bless.’” A thousand blessings cling,
Each with white spots on black-and-orange wings,
To branches unaccustomed to such beauty.

But burn they do: each tiny, beating flame
Lights up the tree, a bloom that’s made of fire,
Flickering in winter to proclaim
A leaf gives solace, milkweed sates desire.
They smolder, cool as rust, in spangled air,
Then fly like sparks, illumining the year.

Lucille Lang Day

From The Curvature of Blue, first published in Measure

Beach Walk: Kenai Bluffs

Valence of rock,
fine slipper of sand…
the ocean has retreated.
Long strophes of silence
sheen the moist air;

here, the small fingers
of failings and reprisals

and one can go on into evening
touching the rough bodies of salt
and watching the light
redefine the shore.

How often does it come to this:
living to wait

until pain climbs out
like a heavenly body
then dissolves…

and it is again possible
to return to the shells and the stones,
to lean outward in the wake
of the storm, to discover
what the tide has salvaged.

Anne Coray

From Bone Strings

Color of the Universe

The universe is really beige. Get used to it.

John Noble Wilford
The New York Times

For Richard

I can’t believe the universe is tan,
Not red or green or lavender or blue.
I feel carnelian when you take my hand—

Not beige like lima beans from a can,
But a splendid, electrifying hue.
I can’t believe the universe is tan.

Rose and gold are what I understand
When I think of waking up each day with you.
I feel carnelian when I take your hand,

And like the universe my love expands,
Surrounding us with turquoise and chartreuse.
Can you believe the universe is tan,

A color desolate as lunar sand
And homely as a peanut or cashew?
I feel carnelian when we’re hand in hand,

Listening to Perahia play Chopin.
The stars all turn cerulean on cue.
I don’t care if the universe is tan:
I feel carnelian as you take my hand.

— Lucille Lang Day

From The Curvature of Blue,
first published in Blue Unicorn

Red Shoes

My mother sits in the living room,
wearing her red shoes.
“Call 911,” she says.
“I’m too weak to move.
And be sure to bring my red purse
to the hospital.  It matches my red shoes.”

“Is your mom okay?”
the neighbors ask. “We saw
the ambulance take her away.
She smiled at us, waved
like she was off for a cruise.
She looked so cute in her red shoes.”

In intensive care she asks,
“What did they do with my red shoes?
Lucy, look in that cabinet
and under the bed.
They were in a bag with my clothes.
I don’t want to lose my red shoes.”

Mom, I’d like to take you for a walk
in your red shoes. We could stroll
down Piedmont Avenue,
but you have something better to do.
You’re already dancing
beyond the moon, in your red shoes.

Lucille Lang Day

From Wild One, first published
in The Hudson Review

I Always Knew It

I knew it at four when I ran for the creek
every chance I got
and my uncle called me “the wild Indian”
as I slid down the bank,
then leapt from stone to stone
to reach the other side.
I knew it when my parents threatened
to give me back to the Indians
if I didn’t behave.
I didn’t care. I wanted
to meet the Indians.
I knew it as I rooted for them
in all the old Westerns
and lamented when they lost
and were cast as the bad guys
again and again. I knew it
when my Native American studies
teacher said, “I think you’re an Indian,”
and when my aunt told my mother,
“Tell her the truth. Tell her
what she wants to hear.”
I knew it at twenty-three
as I stood at a dusty crossroad
on the Rosebud Reservation.
It was stamped on my mother’s
high cheekbones and woven
in her dark hair. It was clear
as the difference between
flat redwood needles
and the scales of a giant sequoia,
clear as the difference
between the musical
chirps of Wilson’s warbler
and the soft, hoarse whistle
of Brewer’s blackbird. I could feel
the People of the First Light stirring
inside me with each contraction
of actin and myosin fibers
in all my muscles, with each
nerve impulse as sodium
rushed into my neurons
and potassium rushed out.
I knew it all along. I knew it
before I could prove it
with a DNA test, long before
I’d heard of Wampanoags. I always
knew it. By the stick-like body
of the tule bluet, the silence
of the lynx chasing rabbits for food,
the silvery needles of Sitka
spruce, and the yodel-like
laugh of the common loon,
I knew it was true.

Lucille Lang Day

Honorable Mention,
2006 Ethnographic Poetry Contest.
First published in
Anthropology and Humanism,
University of California Press

From “Angel on 24 East”

(Creative Nonfiction)

It was a clear night. Despite the roar of the bikes, I felt surrounded by a peculiar silence. It wasn’t a peaceful silence like the silence of my house at night when Liana and my parents were sleeping, but a charged silence, like the silence after lightning strikes, when you’re waiting for thunder. As we sped toward the freeway, I watched the constellations. The stars seemed to be spinning in a frenzied dance. I also watched Rocky, who was weaving more than ever. As we accelerated on the on-ramp, he picked up speed faster than Bob and I. He was heading directly toward the island that separated us from the freeway. Images flipped through my mind: I saw Liana curled like a seashell in her crib; I saw myself back in school, not passing notes but listening to the teacher for a change; I saw the owners of the little white house returning from vacation, finding everything gone or destroyed; I saw Bob holding Liana; I saw Rocky hit the island. The impact hurled him into the air, and he landed on the freeway thirty or forty feet from the island. It couldn’t be real. It had to be just one more image in the sequence. I looked at the constellations again, then looked ahead. Rocky still lay there. I closed my eyes, then opened them again. Rocky still lay there. I tried to wake up, but I couldn’t, because I was already awake.

Lucille Lang Day

First published in River Oak Review


One: the moon
circling Earth, dragging
the oceans like flowing
blue gowns; the human
heart pumping blood
through a network
of rivers that end-on-end
would loop the world
more than twice; the sperm
that wins the race, breaking
through to a new world
inside the ovum; a point,
indescribably small,
a fixed position flashing
in fathomless space.

Two: the eyes required
for depth perception
showing that the throat
of a hummingbird gleams
beyond the liquidambar’s
last gold leaves; wings
that lift a yellow warbler
high above the willows;
the people it takes to make
a new heart begin to beat;
the points that determine
a line from Earth to infinity.

Three: the pairs of legs
that carry the silver-etched
shell of a tortoise beetle;
silky fan-shaped petals
of a pink star tulip
growing close to the loam;
spatial dimensions
that unfolded like petals
of the evening primrose
in the Big Bang; points
making a plane to hold
the stars of the Milky Way.

Four: the chambers
of the heart, allowing
blood to flow in one
direction; the legs of
a white-tailed deer leaping
across a stream; seeds
of the creeping sage
whose blue-violet flowers
carpet the foothills;
the dimensions of space/
time. Let there be four!
And stars can beat, life
stir and breathe.

Lucille Lang Day

From The Curvature of Blue,
first published in RUNES

Delinquent Sonnets

1. In Juvenile Hall

New Juvie has bright paintings on the walls
to celebrate the better things in life:
nature, growth, transformation. These murals
admonish, “Graduate! Put down your knife.”
Mustard-colored cells are stacked in tiers,
windowless, with built-in cots and stools,
where teenagers, alone, confront their fears
and contemplate new ways to break the rules.

The year I was thirteen I ran away
from home and landed here. Back then my cell
had a window. I could watch grass sway
on a hillside, hear jays and warblers call.
More pleasing than a work of art to me:
a glimpse of sky, a hummingbird, a bee.

2. Wild Kid

I finally have become the proper girl
my mother always wanted me to be.
I don’t smoke hash or grass, wear mini-skirts,
pick up long-haired, tattooed men or party
till the neighbors call the police. My last
drunken binge was nineteen seventy.
My motorcycle-riding days are past.
I haven’t shoplifted since sixty-three.

Oh, Mama, what’s to become of me?
I’ve no regrets for anything I did—
the mescaline, the baby at fifteen.
Inside, I’ll always be your wild kid.
I’d gladly wear those mini-skirts again
if I had the legs I did back then.

Lucille Lang Day

First published in Arroyo