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Davis, Geffrey

Davis, Geffrey

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Geffrey Davis is the author of Revising the Storm (BOA Editions 2014), winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Finalist. Other honors include the Anne Halley Poetry Prize, the Dogwood Prize in Poetry, the Wabash Prize for Poetry, the Leonard Steinberg Memorial/Academy of American Poets Prize, and multiple nominations for the Pushcart Prize. His poems have been published by the Academy of American Poets, Crazyhorse, The Greensboro Review, The Massachusetts Review, Mississippi Review, The New York Times Magazine, Nimrod, and Sycamore Review, among other places. Davis grew up in Tacoma, Washington—though he was raised by much more of the Pacific Northwest—and he teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Arkansas.

King County Metro

In Seattle, in 1982, my mother beholds this man

boarding the bus, the one she’s already

 

turning into my father. His style (if you can

call it that): disarming disregard—a loud

 

Hawaiian-print shirt and knee-high tube socks

that reach up the deep tone of his legs,

 

toward the dizzying orange of running shorts.

Outside, the gray city blocks lurch

 

past wet windows, as he starts his shy sway

down the aisle. Months will pass

 

before he shatters his ankle during a Navy drill,

the service discharging him back into the everyday

 

teeth of the world. Two of four kids will arrive

before he meets the friend who teaches him

 

the art of roofing and, soon after, the crack pipe—

the attention it takes to manage either

 

without destroying the hands. The air brakes gasp

as he approaches my mother’s row,

 

each failed rehab and jail sentence still

decades off in the distance. So much waits

 

in the fabulous folds of tomorrow.

And my mother, who will take twenty years

 

to burn out her love for him, hesitates a moment

before making room beside her—the striking

 

brown face, poised above her head, smiling.

My mother will blame all that happens,

 

both good and bad, on this smile, which glows now,

ready to consume half of everything it gives.

 

 

—from Revising the Storm, copyright 2014 by Geffrey Davis, BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org


 What I Mean When I Say Elijah-Man

And it came to pass, […] there appeared a chariot of fire

and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah

went up by a whirlwind into heaven.  And Elisha saw it,

and he cried, My father, my father

                                    — 2 Kings 2:11-12

 

That Sunday in Chehalis, my father testified

and I watched as he wept before the pulpit,

 

his shoulders heaving, his hands

clapping up thunder above our heads,

 

his mouth open on the note of awe as he told us

the promise God had made in the dream:

 

to bring him Home before he tasted death . . .

to wake him with the scent of flowers, proof

 

of His presence. I learned to cry like that, as if

I could sprain the heart, the body hurting its way out.

 

But that morning my mind snuck

back to the nights he took paychecks and split,

 

sometimes for weeks, his head and body

humming for dope, his wife and kids

 

suspended by the boundlessness of waiting.

If he returned, if his pockets were empty,

 

if the locks had been changed, I’d watch

from the window as he jumped and hollered,

 

wide-eyed and ripping the gate from its hinges or

shattering the windshields of cars along our street

 

with his fists—how, as the sirens drew near,

not even God could stop him.

 

 

—from Revising the Storm, copyright 2014 by Geffrey Davis, BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org

 


What I Mean When I Say Burial

the first time I buried you

in a fist-sized hole

 

beside the stairs    and almost

immediately you burst out—

 

bolted like a deer

through the back door

 

never a chorus of crows

there have been too many

 

burials to keep count    some

so small    almost accidental

 

I don’t even notice you’ve

been banished until you return

 

with a piece of something important

to me    carried in your hands:

 

guitar strings    fly rods                my

son’s voice in a fit

 

of surprise    once I made sure

you were dead—placed you seven

 

fears deep and found you

six years later    your bloom

 

bent and just a little wilted

over a mountain stream

 

for a while after I felt more

comfortable with you around

 

heard you as hymn or caught

your hum in the sudden breeze

 

by now    I have no

choice    your canny ghost

 

is keeping my son

up at night    rattling the halls

 

of the house    begging for it

I tell you nothing stays

 

buried for good    that

you don’t deserve this

 

much thought    but really

I want you cast into

 

the right sleeping garden

I imagine you need real rest

 

 

—first appeared in upstreet: a literary magazine, copyright 2015 by Geffrey Davis

Revising the Storm (BOA Editions, 2014)

Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Finalist
Anne Halley Poetry Prize
A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize
Dogwood First Prize for Poetry
Wabash Prize for Poetry
Leonard Steinberg Memorial/Academy of American Poets Prize