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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, September 8, 2017.
About this Poem 

“This poem turns inside questions: Because, isn’t poetry our ritual for making room in the imaginary to speak across the overwhelming? Because, isn’t parenting (like poetry) a kind of open-heart surgery performed with our voices? Because, isn’t there a healthier name for the difference between parenting and poetry?”
—Geffrey Davis

Hear the Light

—at The Giant Heart, The Franklin Institute (Philadelphia, PA)


Today the boy won’t rest long enough
for me to burn a single metaphor
back to whether precision or

prayer leavens the language I need
cast into the well of our survival. And then
the boy urges my turn to stay

poised on a floor scale while watching 24
chilling cups of hurt-colored liquid spill
into a clear cylinder. The gutted window

to the privacy of blood harbored
in this body thins the daily belief
that no sick imaginary could cut us

full open. And then the boy gawks around
a carousel of animal hearts, fidgets against
his surprise at the smallness of the lion’s

carnal engine beside the cow’s. Before
I can weigh the un-chambered bellows
of hunger, the boy begins to sound

a panel that plays the pulse of each animal.
He doesn’t linger with a blood-music; he keeps
mashing buttons at random—from the canary’s

constant lift to the cavernous crawl
of the blue whale—until I can’t see living
inside a god-rhythm that soothes

this earthly cacophony pleading
toward the dark effort of tomorrow.
By now, I have a strange image for heart

filling my mouth. I’m remembering
the tiny fleshy pyramids my own father
cleaned from sunfish. When they ceased

their tight contractions, I strained
to recognize the heart-ness in his hand,
sometimes pressing down into the soft

plunge of his palm to witness one
last lunge. This memory dissolves because
the boy dashes off, and then I’m chasing him

through the beating corridors of a giant
vascular room. The way is dim
and narrow—: I’m working hard to keep up.

I’m trying not to lose the boy
inside the heart. But every time I hear the light
of his laughter murmur across another

distance, I breathe into the new blessing
his life has kindled from the space between us:—
I think I could survive like this all day.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Geffrey Davis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 8, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Geffrey Davis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 8, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Geffrey Davis

Geffrey Davis

Geffrey Davis is the author of The Night Angler, forthcoming from BOA Editions in 2019, and Revising the Storm (BOA Editions, 2014), which received the 2013 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize. His other honors include the Anne Halley Poetry Prize, the Dogwood Prize in Poetry, the Leonard Steinberg Memorial/Academy of American Poets Prize, the Wabash Prize for Poetry, nominations for the Pushcart Prize, as well as fellowships from Cave Canem and Penn State's Institute for the Arts and Humanities. He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

 

 

by this poet

poem

I.

Months out from my bout, I return home
after training deltoids and biceps to push

past the letdown of exertion—to never
stop throwing punches. Our baby boy

bides time in L’s belly, two weeks late,
and she smiles, names me her gentle boxer

as I shadow my

2
poem

 

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2
poem

During the last 50 miles back from haul & some
months past my 15th birthday, my father fishes
a stuffed polar bear from a Salvation Army
gift-bin, labeled Boys: 6-10. I can almost see him
approach the decision: cold, a little hungry, not enough

money in his pocket for coffee.