Lucille Lang Day

I specialized in Elvis Presley records,

makeup, cheap jewelry and angora sweaters.

I did it for the risk and pleasure.

On my way home, I'd stop at the gas station

at the corner of Grand and Linda to scrawl

“Eileen is a whore” on the restroom mirror.

I was caught twice: once at Payless,

where a lady detective with a penguin’s build

saw my cousin, age ten, take a bottle

of nail polish—Barn Red. I should have run.

The kid pointed at my bulging black purse

and said, “She took more. Look in there.”

The other time was at Safeway with Eileen,

my best friend. We were caught taking cat food,

mayonnaise and bread. The manager grabbed

the bag from Eileen’s hand as we tried to leave

the store. “What an awful lunch!” he said.

“For a better sandwich, I recommend tuna.”

Lucille Lang Day

I was thirteen, feeling high,

when we walked by the Mosswood Motel

and stopped to kiss at Van’s

gas station on the corner.

Jim held a bottle of Gallo burgundy

in a brown bag in one hand.

With the other he stroked my rear,

saying, “You are so fine.”

I thought of his wife, back

at the house. Still, I drank the wine

from his mouth. A cat

with a bird in its teeth appeared.

Being bad, I closed my eyes

and ran my fingers

through Jim’s hair. I felt alive, unlike

that bird, a woman to be feared.

Lucille Lang Day

You sleep in a deep freeze.

The dusk light is ice

crystal piercing burlap curtains.

Two frayed blankets

and a quilt the color of dirty snow

come between us.

You are under the covers;

I am on top.

We are fully clothed.

So this is where the long hot nights

have brought us. I am cold.

The one warm spot on my body

is our only point of contact—

the arm you hold in your sleep.

Don’t let go.

Love, I wanted a tropical country,

a lush jungle, a profusion

of ginger and jasmine, nothing harsher

than the macaw’s shrill call.

Where is the power of summer?

The volcano's thunder?

No stars are tacked to the ceiling,

which grows blacker.

Rigid on my back,

I could be a shipwreck survivor,

adrift in marmoreal water.

A salt mist clings to my cheeks.

Whose raft is this? Whose bitter sea?

Lucille Lang Day

It would give my enemies too much pleasure.

I can’t bear the thought

of their banquet: the tables

spread with fruit on silver platters,

stuffed eggs, canapés

and tiny decorated cakes;

the clink of glasses

brimming with champagne,

my skull on a plate.

I won’t give

the people who’ve envied me

the opportunity to gloat

over my bones,

to laugh at the absence

of roses on my grave.

And the people

who’ve made my life wretched

must never be told

that my bones were like eggshells,

my spine was a feather,

my brain was a pitiful flower

and my smile was fake.

Lucille Lang Day

I’ve gone that route.

A skull and crossbones

at every junction,

the road is long,

there are no motels

and you're not allowed

to sleep. You can eat

but the food is guaranteed

to make you sick.

You’re forbidden to think

about anything

except the children

who called you names

in grade school,

the friends who stole

your clothes and records,

all the golden charms you lost,

and all the romantic

tropical afternoons that turned

to dirty laundry in the snow.

Finally, your mind goes blank

as that snow. There

is nothing worth

remembering. This is

your opportunity. Be

creative, begin.

Lucille Lang Day

What does it matter

if I wore my skirt short,

my hair stacked high,

my eyeliner black and thick,

if my long earrings jangled

when I ran

and I wore a padded bra

under my gold lamée blouse

or no bra at all

under a sheer one?

When I danced naked in my apartment

or stripped on a mountain

and made love amid ferns and conifers,

I was like all

the other animals.

And I say

the body is a golden chalice

filled with guts

and menstrual blood.

Every living cell is holy,

radiant as a stained-glass window

with sunlight streaming through.

So what does it matter

how many men wanted me?

What does it matter

if I had my way?

Lucille Lang Day

The city has left me homeless.

I live in a garage in Oakland,

subsisting on cat food—

Science Diet or Tender Bites.

I’d prefer a hollow tree and bird eggs,

but I take what I can get.

This isn't the worst of it.

One night of sex with a stranger

with a pointed snout

and snaky tail, and I get an urge

to clean my pouch.

Two weeks later

two dozen babies cling

to my swollen nipples,

and he’s nowhere to be seen.

Still, I’m blessed

each day with an orange bowl

of fresh water.

The gods watch me

through a window. I’m glad

the cat has a small appetite.

Lucille Lang Day's poetry collections are Wild One, Infinities, Fire in the Garden, and Self-Portrait with Hand Microscope, which received the Joseph Henry Jackson Award. She is also the author of a poetry chapbook in the "Greatest Hits" series from Pudding House and a children's book, Chain Letter, published by Heyday. A second chapbook, The Book of Answers, is due out from Finishing Line Press in 2006. She is the founder and director of a small press, Scarlet Tanager Books (, and the director of the Hall of Health, an interactive children's museum in Berkeley. Her books are available from

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