Four Poems by Todd Davis

A Very Small History

Fire burns inside the stones
unearthed with a plow. Long dead
is the horse that dragged them
to the cellar hole where the farmer’s sons
stacked a foundation that still clings
to the hillside and the hearth
and chimney where smoke curls
into night. He tells the chair, the one
his wife sat in each morning
as they had coffee, that he’s gathered
this wood from a windthrow
pitched over in a spring storm.
After running the saw all afternoon,
silence is a comfort, and the warmth
of this old flickering calms his mind.
Above the eaves cold descends, helping
to cure five cord he stacked in October.
The moon is absent. The dispassionate stars
provide little light to count the rings.


Angry Elegy

All summer long the forest burns
and the stream above and below frays
like a broken thread.

In the deepest water along the dam
trout settle like silt, just enough cold
to survive beneath ash.

With each step a cloud of cremated bone:
elk and deer who couldn’t outrun fire,
bear engulfed in a den of flame.

Through the open furnace door
wind blows down the valley
and the tyrant says to rake the gold,

to pry it from the teeth
of our fallen dead.



Sky descending
toward black.

Last pink
at the brink
of the western-
most mountain.

A star

A mother’s voice.

Like the sound
of water
at the seep
before it continues
the work
of wearing away
the gap
in the stone.


This is how
you find
your way


The Crabber’s Mother Tells Him about His Birth

Your face looking up
through the water, breaking
the water’s surface,
and your eyes opening,
the sky reflected there,
and also the limbs of trees
that hang over the river,
and the flying bodies
of heron and osprey,
the wing-beats of migrating
thrushes, and the water
washing around
your cheekbones,
the water dripping
from your chin
as you open your mouth
to cry for the first time,
dark hair matted to the skull,
current dragging you
gracefully out
into the estuary,
floating your small body
to the coastal town
where you will be born.


Todd Davis is the author of six full-length collections of poetry, most recently Native Species, Winterkill, and In the Kingdom of the Ditch, all published by Michigan State University Press. His seventh book, Coffin Honey, will be published by Michigan State in February 2022. He has won the Midwest Book Award, the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Bronze and Silver Awards, the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, the Chautauqua Editors Prize, and the Bloomsburg University Book Prize. His poems appear in such noted journals and magazines as Alaska Quarterly Review, American Poetry Review, Gettysburg Review, Iowa Review, Missouri Review, North American Review, Orion, and Poetry Northwest. He teaches environmental studies, American literature, and creative writing at Pennsylvania State University’s Altoona College.

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