Three poems by Holly Day

How I Identify You

I listen to your heart beating inside its cage of broken bones
the Braille graffiti of your chest, and even now I wonder
what things would have been like if you were whole when we met
if you weren’t so damaged by your past, would you have come to me?

I run my fingertips over the old cigarette burns along your arms
testament to a drunk stepfather who never bothers calling anymore, wonder
if I could somehow put the pieces back together, fix this mangled child
how long it would take for you to decide you didn’t need me anymore

that without your damaged past, there’d be no reason to seek solace
against me and my own broken heart.

Where We Meet

In bed, in the dark, your fingers brush the jagged “x”
that marks my damaged past.
I flinch out of habit, force myself
to be completely naked with you
tell you how you can make a happy face with a lighter
home-poke tattoos with a safety pin and India ink.

I trace the pattern of your own damaged flesh,
ribs shattered and warped, a mangled child
written in pages of skin half-crumbled to dust
ritualistic burnings—here, I defy you
to tell me I had it bad, we had it bad.
With you, I stand in defiance of the past

remake myself in images of celibacy
angelic visitations, with a heart as pure as ice.

With Careful Hands

her body a thin shadow
beside the pool the next morning
a whitewashed backdrop, too
thin ankles and smooth pale legs

slashing and sewing with
careful, tiny stitches
she lies peacefully on white cotton sheets
no one would ever know.


Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and Harvard Review. Her newest poetry collections are In This Place, She Is Her Own (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), A Wall to Protect Your Eyes (Pski’s Porch Publishing), Folios of Dried Flowers and Pressed Birds (, Where We Went Wrong (Clare Songbirds Publishing), Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), and Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing), while her newest nonfiction books are Music Theory for Dummies and Tattoo FAQ.

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