There are days

This is one of those poems I wish I had written. I celebrate it here as part of National Poetry Month. The author is Rebecca McClanahan, one of my best teachers and one of the reasons I wanted to go to Queens University to study writing in the first place. She started each class by reciting a poem she loved. The poems were never hers, but if I ever teach, I will recite this one.


There are days when nothing
especially goes right but nothing
wrong, and you find yourself
writing to your sister-in-law
to thank her for the lemon cake
she baked that time, and for loving
your brother all these years.
Three, maybe four times that day
you praise whoever is responsible
for letting you pee so easily,
without pain, without the tubes
and bags your uncle rolled on a cart
beside him that last year. You dig
in the garden until sweat pearls
your lip and you taste the salt
you have made, remembering the poem
a small girl wrote after her father was shot:
I love myself because I am not dead.
In bed that night you spread your toes.
The furnace of your brain warms
the pillow, the heart’s engine ticks,
and the lungs, those meaty wings,
flutter and empty, flutter
and empty, lifting you into sleep.

-Rebecca McClanahan

"There Are Days" is from Deep Light: New and Selected Poems by Rebecca McClanahan. Reprinted with permission.