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.