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Davis, Geffrey

Davis, Geffrey


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.,

 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.,


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