Two Poems

Jim Davis

Sunrise over Portland / Ukraine


Swimming laps in the sound to erase the head

   cold he can’t seem to shake. Small doses

of hydrochloric acid up his nose, saline to sustain

   moistness. There’s no entry to celestial waters


this time of year. Flip flops and lattes on a park bench.

   Fog on the lips of morning waves

the way it might have been, had he braved another

   conflict in Crimea, as he chased his boyhood


shadow past stone walls, through the hedge

   to the topless beach, to see the world before

the backlash of mortars bombarded night and

   pending days. This time of year it’s impossible not to


imagine disquiet, feel it, imagine there’s more

   than winter’s oxtail soup, borsht this time of year

as the earth relaxes its relationship to sky,

   clouds cooked off and clearing. Poet of the World


War fingering foreign bodies burrowed in

   his knee and the meat of his calf. He is no longer

interested in sunscreen, light beer, recycling –

   pursuits of younger men – he is no longer interested


in the red breasted chat on the rock near the sound

   or the crane’s single-legged, spear-beak piercing

a frog in the reeds, down the bank fifty feet

   from where he dives to clear his head.


Burn me, sun, he said, defiant in echoes of mind

   as saline Puget waters carve sinus like limestone

and a decent morning eases its relationship to sky.



Heartbreak 101 in 3-part Simile


Grilled sweet corn, baby. Hawks 3-2 over the Blues and an apron

that said London, Paris, Rome, St. Louis in red stencil.

When he slept, white grubs with black heads covered him

from jaw to splintered toenail, cracked heel, he’d been walking

and said maybe I was born to walk, or maybe I was born

to hold onto things which can’t be held: sunlight, dream, most soups –

thence his passing away, in the traditional sense

since there was nothing left to do. He could untie anything


with his teeth: dependent arising. Fire, red wide long

and terrible. He lived into his 80s with his sister

in the bed beside him – two misers eating rhubarb

pie, drinking chicken stock, raising rare birds, cleaning fish

bowls of water, neon gravel, ceramic divers, castles…

no fish. I wish I had been good enough for Allegheny, he said,

the college he couldn’t get into, but his sister did. He would have

found a wife there, career, new shoes. He drinks black tea, orange


slices dipped in sea salt. The ghosts of their garden

apartment have rearranged the furniture, bent rabbit ears

on a heavy Magnavox. He watched a lot of local hockey.

He look up a stalk of potpourri, named it “wet wood lying

in water” and used it to stoke a fire, which he named “dependence”

and let it do what it did which he knew would someday end.

He named his sister Gotama, braided her hair every morning,

brushed it nightly. It is easy to fall in love with heavy silent snow.


 About the Writer

JIM DAVIS is a graduate of Knox College and an MFA candidate at Northwestern University. Jim lives, writes, and paints in Chicago, where he is a reader for TriQuarterly and edits North Chicago Review. He has received Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations, and his work has appeared in Wisconsin Review, Adirondack Review, Seneca Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Contemporary American Voices, among hundreds of others. In addition to the arts, Jim is a teacher, coach, and international semi-professional football player.