8 and 10
—a poem by Holly Day

8 and 10

We woke up
and there was breakfast on the table
and my mother was awake, out of bed,
ready to step out into the snow
and walk us to school.

It happened
just like that.
Two years before
my mother went crazy
started by accusing my father of stealing the ocean
and hiding it from her, just out of spite
I can still remember how my father looked
as he tried to defend himself
from her useless accusations.

For much of the long, Nebraskan winters
we sat through
days when my mother wouldn’t get out of the tub
hiding from the cold in near-scalding bathwater.
“The ocean feels like this, ” she’d tell us, urging us
to climb into the tub with her, or at least
sink hands beneath the bubbles
hold them there until our skin was as pink as hers.
She spent most of the first spring and summer
on her knees, trying to coax things to grow
out of our small, gravel-filled patch of a yard
before my father poured concrete over it all
bought her a television.

Then somehow she got better
all on her own, and in the meantime
I learned how to cook for both
my little sister and me.
I woke up one completely nondescript, ordinary day
and there was breakfast on the table
the laundry was done
and my father was happy.

Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minnesota since 2000. Her published books include Music Theory for Dummies, Music Composition for Dummies, Guitar All-in-One for Dummies, Piano All-in-One for Dummies, Walking Twin Cities, Insider’s Guide to the Twin Cities, Nordeast Minneapolis: A History, and The Book Of, while her poetry has recently appeared in New Ohio Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle. Her newest poetry book, Ugly Girl, just came out from Shoe Music Press.