Todd Davis Reflections

2008

Twin Bridges

Taxonomy

We’ve been taken captive
by the world, named by it, taught

to eat from its table. The whetted blade
slides through the flesh, thin veil

that parts to reveal what we think
is the soul. We set fires and burn

the earth because berry canes
won’t come back without dirt

as dark as the color of its fruit.
Before the oldest trees were felled

we traveled the watercourse.
Now in the open fields we track

coyote, hoping to save the sweet
lambs we tend. Sadly, as night

stumbles down, all we find
are clumps of wool caught

in teasel’s fine comb.
More than two centuries ago

Linnaeus began to arrange all
the names we’ve given back

to the world. This is how we know
black walnut hulls, when crushed,

smell like lemon, or when we walk
through sweet fern grouse will burst

into flight, dragging the plant’s sharp
scent into the air. Near the stream

a tulip poplar blows down, leaves
turning the yellow of mustard

and ragwort. Despite the order
we’ve cultivated, the charts

we’ve set to memory, we’re likely
to discover our way is one

of unknowing. When we die
may we be a pleasing word

placed in the mouth
of the world.

Rudy Sawmill

Snow Fleas

On the bank where mink carve

tunnels, February sun warms, wakes

these bits of pepper that spring up:

furcula folded under abdomen, hooks

released so their small bodies snap

outward above the white walls

of our snowshoes’ trail.

Chestnut Plantation

Give Us This Day

July and the ink
of blackcap raspberries
splatters ditches
and clearcuts: green
banks singing, my tongue
rocking inside my mouth.
Who blessed by this dark
sugar could stay quiet?
Ants wander drunk
into my bucket, across
the visible world
that feeds us, that makes
an offering each day:
beach plum or pawpaw,
morel or puffball, even
the spider-legs
of purslane
and the sharp
bite of sorrel.

Dark Cliffy Spot

Falling Snow

Under the oak the imprint of wings, angel white,
or what the vole might call demon, dark tips

of feathers, lines curved like the sun, and two trenches
dug in the midst of these fallen shadows, cast of talons

dragging life from beneath the floor, subnivean
home to the least among us, simple evidence of what

the living do: a bit of wood, leaves to insulate,
hole stocked with acorns and dried berries, a circle

where sleep laid its head, no telling when death
might arrive, descent quiet as falling snow.

Bluebird Meadow

Dreaming the Dark Smell of Bear

Stop what you’re doing!

Put down your hammer and saw.

What good is a cabin?

Look at bear’s house: a hole

in the snow where great puffs of lung

rise through the roof of his dreaming.

Lake Perez

Wet Earth

The lake is half drained, and where water slid
away fast, cracks have appeared, as has the detritus

of our living. Geese seek out the few places fish
still swim, and killdeer set up home near the cinder-

blocks and tires that served as nests of another kind.
Tree stumps line the lakebed, solid despite years

submerged. I imagine this grove before any ax
cleared it, before the stream at the far side

was dammed and this depression in the earth
accepted the weight of water. A blue jay

in an ash tree sneers at our efforts, and the smell
of wet earth drying is everywhere.


Raptor Center

How Long Away from the Sun?

Deep winter cold slides

over us. In the pine boughs

crows roost. Come morning

the forest floor is littered

with shit: muddy-yellow, black

against white, each purged

upon flight as feathers spread,

earth’s mouth closed until spring

when in the warmth it opens

and swallows everything.


Lake Trail

Spring Melt

Water remakes
what was made
before and reforms
itself in the bed
of its own making.

Its surface reflects
cherry blossoms,
moon’s ivory
cut and placed
at petal’s edge.

See the floating bridge:
how it always moves,
how we dip our fingers
in this very spot
yet touch the sea.

LTERPreter: Todd Davis, 2008.

Todd Davis is the author of four full-length collections of poetry—In the Kingdom of the Ditch, The Least of These, Some Heaven, and Ripe. His poems have won the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.