Four Poems by Jim Davis

On Grit

Dray pulling palettes of soy.
Knees of blue jeans worn and gray.
Shirtless, dry hay stalk bowing
from his teeth. The boy looks past
the lip of the mouth of the well
holding a reed-thatched bucket at length
as a lone hawk slices through silver sky
in search of farm rats, mouths slick with yolk
as they scurry from the hen-house, thieves.

The boy swats a horsefly
as the truck appears, inspiring
red waves of dust and clay –
confident hand cupped
behind his patient ear.


Should You Decide to Find Me Again

be wearing anything other than a red carnation, purple
grade school sweatshirt turned inside out, with your harvest
of underfuzz exposed. And whatever you do, do not try
too hard when you sing, you’re ruining the song. A couple
trapped in the coil of coal cars that jumped the track.
Too soon? you ask. Too soon. Years later, one of us will
just come in from jogging in the rain, the other will tell
of seeing the end of the world in a pie pan, or in the court-
yard through a heavy pair of binoculars. Probably you
will have a whisper of grease on your inner calf
from riding your bike in that rain we talked about.
What special, heavy deliverance it would be to touch
the eyelash from your cheek and freeze in the grip of nothing
much to wish for. You said you were startled by the clarity
of liquid world and all its tumbling pieces. Clouds broke pink
and torrid, droplets hatching into crowns on the windshield.
Now night, the searchlight doing its best to unearth some small
sector of truth, coughs and excuses itself. This is gonna hurt,
it says. Ignore me only in the ways I ignore myself.
Saviors pull scraps from the pile: coal, carnations, wooden teeth.
Whistling around the wreckage, they hear a distant signing.
Stop it, they say, please – push any harder and you’ll bury us all.


Transmigration

On a bus in traffic in the rain, reflecting
on unusable practice, the way that Words
With Friends has limited me to impractical
vocabulary: Qi, Fa, or Ani – the dark, tropical cuckoo,
whose bill can shuck oysters by the bucketful.
On Monday I begin the study of Organizational Analysis
should I decide to show. And in case you were wondering,
I always have Swiss cheese in my Hollywood omelet.
Reader, don’t worry, this is going somewhere.
The Germans have a word for ill-fated wander
and it’s capitalized, all the time, alive and exuberant
in its Thingness. Like Evanescence in a Dickinson stroll
and Bahnhoff in my haunting dreams: sitting on my suitcase
in the rain, then lost in a rail tunnel outside Munich.
To transfer, transpose, to translate graffiti into a figure
of itself, backwards, basking, reflected, the veritas
of vanity – the vanitas of veins primed to pop
at 3700 feet, pierced by the steeple of the clock tower
stippled with shrapnel of language in a city changed hands.
Prophylactics in the pay-toilet, the WC, and what have we
learned from this? I’ll tell you – some non-functional truth
which, as years of morbid solitude confirm, can be crippling.
You say this, yes, and we agree, but then why is it
the flax in this bran muffin, this bitter cup of tea
that breathes of citrus and earth, be so open
as the Frieburg sky in early autumn, as leaves curl
into themselves, brilliantly red, orange, so (despite
their closing, despite the reassignment of gun turrets
as clock towers ticking like a sickle picking gristle from teeth)
so damned inviting – so much, in their passage, amenable? alive?


Fathoms

The sail clapped tight and crooked and spoke,
freeing twenty eight years of wind from its cheeks.
Back home, the man dug a trench to lay the coal
to roast the pig to feed the village, to pray about rain:
on land, for storm – at sea, for calm. Anyone willing
to lie beside me in the morning is worthy, he said,
and I have not been able to use the word fair without
bitter ends. Don’t make me upset. I am drunk off wine
and watching the sad impressions of standup television.
I laugh with shadows and tide, he said, sending messages
he knew he’d regret. He knows no better than to
catalogue his longing. He writes only because he is
afraid. Surely, I’m no good at this, he says. You’re not,
said the potted Cat Palm, and don’t call me Shirley!
Sad laughter. There are no Titans here, he says, no Gods
to pinch the frill of a Persian rug and pull, to hold me up
against the ceiling fan until I squeal. I used to
dance for kings, he’d say, whistling directions home
from the porter-house; streetlamps flicker out in his wake.
All that he imagines is lost to the open window, the blithe
yellow curtain on the rod. There was a time when there were gods.
He remembers the glimmer of noon on the filet blade,
slick with fish, squinting as the boat chugged into berth.
A young woman perched high upon the rail, signaling, Ho!
she signaled, Land ho! And waved her arms, stirring sunlight
and seamist. Though he was busy digging ditches never filled.
And the dam broke. And the sail claps explained their absence.


Profile: Jim Davis

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