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The Day After  

February 2021

Holidays, holy days, observances - global, national and personal - have great significance. But what comes after?

In Susan Rothbard's poem, "February 15" (from Birds of New Jersey) she looks not at Valentine's Day but at the day after. What at first seems like a sad situation - unsold bouquets of roses - becomes a happy event.

In this cold, Valentine month, we will be writing about "the day after." What happens the day after Christmas, a birthday, the summer solstice, a birth, a death, Thanksgiving, a wedding? What happens on the day after Labor Day?

Special days are sometime special - sometimes they are not. But for this prompt, we're interested in the day after that day. Choose a day that appears on all our calendars or appears only on your calendar.

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


It was Monday morning and a new month.
Beside me on the bed was no one.
The other chair in the breakfast nook was empty.
The cup was dry on the dish rack.
It was a clear day. Cloudless. Hard blue.
My calendar was unfilled and I spent the day
busily doing nothing. Nothing that mattered.
I knew it would be this way tomorrow
and the day after and for many days
until it wasn't that way ever again.

Lianna Wright


In the morning, I waited for a sign from my mother.
Maybe a cardinal would come to me and speak.
Maybe her photo would fall from the wall.
I thought she might be a Houdini and reappear
in some form, some symbol, some miracle
which she had truly believed could happen.
That night I lit a candle as a beacon to follow
but it burned itself away and the last smoke
drifted toward the open window and left,
though I could still smell something of it
as sleep came over me in the midst of prayer.

Charles Michaels


We never made much meaningful time for each other
before Glenda decided to join the U. S. Marine corps
and kick some ass wearing camouflage fatigues
rather than night clubbing it during twilight hours
and living out her days as a Cisco computer engineer.
Still, we met New Year’s Eve at a San Diego Bar where
she’d been drinking Chartreuse shots, talking smack,
causing quite a stir dressed in skimpy civilian threads.

Glenda grabbed me by the neck, pulled my reluctant body
to the dance floor, ordered me play Tom Jones to her Janis Joplin,
sensuously moving across the room, making love to an enigma.
When we woke up the next morning side by side…naked,
Glenda coyly inquired if I considered midnight resolutions
exchanging long-term commitments binding—merely flights
of fleeting fancy clouded by booze—or if our affair sans strings
qualified culturally, emotionally, literally as utopian perfection?

Looking at the cracker jack box wedding bands around our fingers,
I grinned, shook my head, and yawned, “It's kinda complicated.”

Sterling Warner


The day after I was born, a mega-tsunami
rocked Southeastern Alaska.
An earthquake shook the floor of the ocean
creating waves taller than ever before.
It was a Wednesday, a day known for its woe.
My mother said she didn’t feel a thing.

And me; I came on Tuesday; full of grace.
And so my mother named me.
But this isn’t true.
She didn’t name me Grace; she named me for her cousin;
her best friend, a woman she’d know her entire life.
I knew her as the aunt who smelled like cigarettes
and coffee. I guessed it’s what made her voice
sound like a walk on the beach.

And still, I wished for grace and a little woe,
something to set me apart from my sister
who never seemed to like me—though she was born
on a Sunday two years to the month before me:
Bonny and blithe, merry and gay.
Now, we are but two of four. Sisters.

And now I hate Thursdays.
The day our father died;
the day he almost came home.
And his voice—what if I forget it?
What if I don’t remember the best of times?
He, too, born on a Sunday of the silent generation,
though this isn’t entirely true of him.

Our mother says she doesn’t feel a thing.

Patty Joslyn


We left him outside of Gilroy,
Where signs for Andersen’s Pea Soup
Pull travelers off of Interstate 5.
Sere hills surround his remembrance field.

White cattle, black cattle laze above the uniform markers.
The hay truck bumps and bounces into their view.
They know fresh bales will tumble off the back.
They make excited noises and run fast down the hill.

The hay truck leaves, their lowing loses urgency.
Some chew, others nudge their young, protective.
He rests beyond the signs that warned us about
Rattlesnakes amid the graves.

Rob Friedman


You’re driving the freeway coming on an offramp
that gets you to upper Broadway, market
where yesterday you were wheeling your cart –

you’d grabbed a bunch of roses, you were
contemplating Cabernets, Merlots, Barberas –
what goes best with just-the-two-of-you

for dinner-at-home. “Go with the Boeger,
always a good choice.” A woman in gray tweed
from better days; educated accent;

hint of sarcastic turn of lip. “Your lady
will love you on Lovers’ Day.” She’s got celery
and saltines in her cart, headed for checkout.

Why did she pop into your head as you popped
the Boeger cork on a Barbera, took the first
sip, poured a glass for “your lady” of 27 years?

Now it’s rain-sunny break through clouds
and you’re nearing the offramp where
homeless camp in woods behind the market.

A woman’s walking, paused on the overpass –
the same tweed lady? “Thrift store gray,”
pops into your head. But look,

suddenly she’s washed in color, she’s
at the end of a rainbow touching down.
Does she know how beautiful?

Taylor Graham


Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I needed a mother.
Because my mother is dead and my grandmother
is dead, too. And the mother of my children
is “the mother of my children.” And we don’t
talk. So I was all dressed up with no mother to go.
I had a card and some flowers and I was walking
around, looking at the mothers in the windows,
the shop windows and the restaurant windows,
with their husbands and their children, and I felt
motherless. And I knew I looked motherless, too.
I knew in spite of my card and flowers and new
shoes, people could see right through me.
They saw I was an imposter, a poseur, a mother-
fucker who would steal your mother and help you
look for her. What was she wearing? Was she young
or old? Large breasts or small? Of course it was
a Sunday in May, so there was all this pollen in the air,
so there was all this sex in the air, and the motherless
trees were standing erect in the breeze, just shivering
with pleasure. And the ejaculations of the lost and laughing
mothers were pealing in the Sunday air, like a summons.
But today it’s Monday. Monday. And like the Mamas
and the Papas say: Sometimes it just turns out that way.
Bah-da bah-da-da-da. Bah-da bah-da-da-da.

Paul Hostovsky


The choice between
The Day Of and Day After
Is a tricky one
At first glance it seems
There's little doubt
The Day Of is what it's all about
But ... wait a sec.
Let's take a closer look

Take this year's Super Bowl
The Day Of gets all the hype
It's Wall-to-Wall excitement
But ask Tom Brady what he thinks
If he'd prefer to know
The Buccaneers had won
Or roll the dice?

How about the holidays?
Take Christmas, for example
The gifts, the food, the family
Can any other day compare?
Let's see ...
Next day, the presents are still there
Leftovers in the fridge
We can concentrate on what we like
Ignore the rest

Some might say
The same is true of tragedies
The Day Of we're still in shock
And paralyzed
The Day After we have time to think
And act

You might think this POV's a little crazy
The musings of a fool who's out of touch
I'd argue otherwise
It's true, some of us just Love Day Of surprises
Others of us ...
... Not so much

Frank Kelly


My first Valentine was delivered to my school locker
the day before the appointed day as if to say
"I'm first. Pick me!"
It was attraction or teen lust and not Love,
though that was what the card said to "thee"
with it red hearts and a flocked dove.
But this love was not meant to be
as I discovered later that day
when my girl friends also had these words
delivered to them in the same way.
All that love carried by a boy and love birds
to all of us made its feathers turn sad and gray.

First loves, last loves, all those in between
with me in bed today as if I was again fifteen.

Pamela Milne

(The Day after my Daughter’s Matriculation)

Her room still burdened with littered clothes,
video games, TV, the Periodic Table puzzle
placed squarely over her desk—the only unskewed
thing amid the tangle of wires and books and pens
and other assorted flotsam that made context of her world.
For years she was the only thing that kept me focused
on the future day, not counting the hours spent washing,
cooking, saving—-running scared always that she might not
launch and live beyond my narrow ways, my windowed landscape.
The past and all its myriad minglings and drunken nights—-
friendships made and lost and lovers dead and children raised and gone
—-forever left behind in shrouded motes of mental jetsam strewn on a dimming canvas.
All gone, concentrated at birth in this one life, this one responsibility left
to an aging mind and body to raise and nurture and send forth
to seek and find what I so long ago set out to grasp—-simply to know—-
because in knowing is the only life, the only impulse worthy
of that struggle set so long ago in the wild savanna of our species’ birth.
Now I’m left, like every parent since that primal dawn,
sitting in an aging house with fading books and early
shadows, few falls left to continue the journey,
but quietly, after the morning ride and thinning
paper, to sit and think,

Robert Miller