Skip to content
Contact USI


by Meg Day

Harder to say now which way it moved
& only that it idled at the green light
of my body, high-beam staring steady
at the sensor & my skin lit up like
Go. Hard to say if there was sun at all,
or just the thought of you, as afternoon
leaned my shadow right, then left
me in the shade. Mercy laid me down
last night & morning came anyway. Sorrow
stripped me green from sleep to keep
my one eye open. I stayed right here
despite the drive & even dreamt of stillness:
a sundial in snow. I left you last night the way
a station leaves a train. I left the light on anyway.

I like the private rumination available in a sonnet. Sometimes it feels like being alone, at last, in your own small room after a long ride on a crowded subway, or slipping into the bathroom to breathe a little—confront the mirror—away from the sweet exhaustion of lively, smallish talk at a party that’s gone a little long. I like best the flexibility of the sonnet’s call & response; when I teach the form, we press into the space a volta can render, the distance it can put between one thought & another, one environment & the next. I like the way the sonnet allows me to play—in general, but also specifically—with time & space.

When I wrote this poem, I was miles away from the room in which it occurs & farther still from the urgency I know this speaker felt. Sometimes, as poets, distance is a gift we can give ourselves. It makes it easier to access both specificity & simplicity; without it, I don’t think the grief of this scene would be allowed its soft revelry. There’s that Zora Neale Hurston quote about years that ask questions and years that answer. This poem is very much about a year—a month—that did both. Without a little time & space, how could I have known?

Lately, I’m looking to renovate what I know of the sonnet—to ghost it, in a way—so much that most of its movement is the turn: meeting your own eyes in the mirror. In many ways, this poem is just that: one private, unaccompanied breath before returning to the party.

Deaf and genderqueer poet Meg Day is the author of Last Psalm at Sea Level, winner of the Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Award. She is a recipient of the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in poetry. Recent work can be found in The Best American Poetry 2020 and The New York Times. Day is an assistant professor of English and creative writing in the MFA program at North Carolina State University.