DAY SHIFT by Edward Mayes

Well, yes, we were thrown down that
Well, or so we thought we had dreamed
We had, so burdened by proof, the prom
Dress at the cleaners and the cleaners
Now closed, and while wax paper and
A comb may be all the buzz we need,
These days we pass our hands through
Time’s waters and see them come out
Unchanged, and in the rear view mirror
We combed our hair into a duck’s ass,
The style then for us, and still the style for
Ducks, and we go to war with those
On the swing shift, drive the car bombs
To those on the graveyard shift, and then
We are all in the same war together, and
Then confess to each other that peace was
Better, that we can’t deny the burden
Of birth, what our bodies are founded
Upon, what we try to leap over, when
We have opened the letter bomb and
Read aloud what it has to say, “the shoal
Of time,” someone said, the shallow
Day, the shallow breaths, the are-we-
Not-finally-free melting into no, rapt
For a second, and then time unwrapping
Its last present for this year, a long rope,
A strong arm, and a little air, a little light.
Notes: Departure time; “the breathing time of day,” Hamlet; “upon this bank and
shoal of time,” Macbeth; short shrift, brief penance given to someone who is about to
die; hecatomb, 100 oxen; T-bone; Chianina cattle; hokum; awkward words like
squawk; comb over; coxcomb; combo; f-bomb; bombé; bombast; aplomb, lead weight

Edward Mayes’s five books of poetry include First Language (University of Massachusetts Press–Juniper Prize), and Works & Days (University of Pittsburgh Press—AWP Donald Hall Prize). He is coauthor, with Frances Mayes, of In Tuscany (Broadway Books), Bringing Tuscany Home (Broadway Books,), and The Tuscan Sun Cookbook (Clarkson Potter). His poetry has appeared in The Southern Review, Poetry, The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, The Best American Poetry, The Kenyon Review, The Gettysburg Review, and Southwest Review.