Teri Cross DavisWebsite
BiographyTeri Ellen Cross Davis is the author of Haint, (Gival Press, 2016) winner of the 2017 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. She has attended the Soul Mountain Writer’s Retreat, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She is on the Advisory Council of Split This Rock (a biennial poetry festival in Washington DC) and a member of the Black Ladies Brunch Collective.
Her work has been published in many anthologies including: Bum Rush The Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem's First Decade, Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC, The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks and Not Without Our Laughter: poems of joy, humor, and sexuality. Her work can be read or is forthcoming in the following journals: Poet Lore, North American Review, Gargoyle, Natural Bridge, Fledging Rag, Sligo Journal, ArLiJo, MiPOesias, Torch, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Delaware Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Tin House, Mom Egg Review, and the Caregifted and Puerto Del Sol blogs.
She is the Poetry Coordinator for the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. and lives in Maryland with her husband, poet Hayes Davis and their two children
When the blue and red sirens pass you,
when the school calls because your child
beat the exam and not a classmate,
when the smart phone drops but does not crack,
the rush escaping your mouth betrays your upbringing:
thank you Jesus—a balm over the wound.
When the mammogram finds only density,
when the playground tumble results
in a bruise, not a broken bone,
like steam from a hot tea kettle
thank you Jesus—and the pent-up fear
vents upward, out. Maybe it’s a hand
over breast, supplication learned deeper
than flesh as if one could shush the soul,
the fluttering heartbeat with three words.
Maybe it’s not so dire—an almost trip on the sidewalk,
the accumulated sales total showing savings upon savings,
maybe it’s as small as an empty seat on the Metro
or maybe thank you Jesus—becomes the refrain
every time your husband pulls into the driveway,
alive and whole, and no one has mistaken him
for all the black, scary things. You mutter it,
helpless to stop yourself from the invocation
of a grandmother who gave you your first bible,
you say it because your mother, even knowing
your doubt as a vested commodity, still urges prayer.
You learned early to cast the net—thank you Jesus
and it’s a sweet needle that gathers the fraying thread,
hemming security in steady stitches. From birth
you’ve heard this language; as an adult
you’ve seen religion used nakedly as ambition yet
this sacrifice of praise, still slips past your lips,
this lyrical martyr of your dying faith.
“You almost scared us to death,” my mother muttered as she stripped the leaves from a tree limb to prepare it for my back.
RICHARD WRIGHT, Black Boy
My son nests—pawing
each pillow like a breast
fleshed out and so newly
forgotten. I’ve spanked him
once tonight. He takes turns
laughing, then crying, defiant,
then hungry. In his mouth
my name— all need. Pursed
lips plead, Mommy and I
am guilty of the same sin.
I miss his curled and tucked
weight. Embryo, the deepest
root yanked clean. This is why
babies are born crying
into this world, having held
fast to such an intimate tether
who willingly would let go again?
But today another white cop walked
free, another black body was still
on the ground. “Not indicted”
undoubtedly the future outcome.
Four years ago I crossed labor’s
red sea of pain to birth a boy—
no doctor hit his backside, now I raise
my hand to complete an act
older than me, breaking the black
back of the boy to make a man
who can survive in America.
Mommy he calls me and my teats
threaten to weep old milk at our stasis.
Both of us needing the succor of sleep,
both us fighting- him, to keep me near
me, punishing him to be left alone.
He crawls into my lap, his heart
is three, his body, a lanky four.
I cover him with a blanket
too thin to mean it. We rock
on the edge of his bed. Listening
to the symphony’s fourth movement:
the crescendo sweet, full of tension,
taut violin strings singing. I think
Mozart must have known something
of loving with such a tender fear
that it breaks you open like a welt
that bleeds to heal. Tonight I give up,
cuddling this boy so full of belief
in himself, I’m too tired with love
to beat it out of him.
no amount of dilation and suction
hemorrhaging and fever
could’ve erased you or
the pulp of your carved initials
made with the solid grasp
of a still forming hand
science tells me
you are still whispering
inside my bones
that years from now
cut me to the marrow
and microscopes will read
the rings of your insistent story
no matter the inconvenient
coupling of timing and desire
even now when the bloody show
disappoints our sharpening hunger
do you still cling or are you willing
to let another call my womb