Shadows of Derelict Trains: Two Poems by Holly Day

By Holly Day


God is Spying on Mankind

No matter how well-dressed you are, you will not know the contents of a book
by balancing it on your head. Nor will trepanning your skull
allow the wind to carry the knowledge of scattered pages and burning Bibles
into any part of your brain that will recognize the ash as words.

In the shadows of derelict trains, four old men sit around a table in pews
rescued from abandoned churches. They, too, have tried
balancing books on their heads for the delight of passersby, tried
learning open-heart surgery and dentistry from medical encyclopedias
bought at library close-out sales, but Christ eludes

even them and their attempts. The suits you wear have to be new.
God can tell if you bought them at a thrift store, or pulled them
from the fresh bodies of a recently-dead suicide victim or career alcoholic.
0716141848If there’s anything I’ve learned about Heaven,
you have to bathe an awful lot to get in.


The Boy With the Guitar

By the side of a quiet stream a young boy
is torturing a tree with a song about a girl
he met that morning and will someday marry
and have babies with she
holds the key to his heart to his
brain and he wants to die every time
she walks by.

Overhead the spreading branches of the tree
quake and shake with the unending
horror of it all pulls vainly at the roots
buried so far beneath the ground wills the dirt
to loosen wills the water to rise up
screams silently of freedom.

Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Oyez Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle, while her newest poetry book, Ugly Girl, just came out from Shoe Music Press.

Cover and illustration photo by David Nilsen.



  1. I think Holly Day was misnamed. I read her poems and couldn’t help but smile at their intelligence and black humor, but I also feel sadness for this poet whose natural gifts are shrouded with such a disenchanted perspective. There is nothing green here, only hopes that browned and proved too brittle for the rough and tumble of life.


    • Paul, I love your perspective, but I sometimes wonder if you are able to appreciate any poetry that comes from a place of unresolved hurt or sadness. There is a lot of it in the world. Some artists feel a deep need to present that without tidying it up with hope and happiness. Sometimes hurt is what needs to come out.


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