Todd Davis Reflections
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.
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.
Give Us This Day
July and the ink
of blackcap raspberries
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
and the sharp
bite of sorrel.
Dark Cliffy Spot
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.
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.
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.
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.
what was made
before and reforms
itself in the bed
of its own making.
Its surface reflects
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.