On Nick Flynn’s Pulse (Hidden Bird)
“Imagine a glass of water / a drop of blood”
Imagine the infinite swelling of waves, bruised mornings, nights written in
A long forgotten language: the constellation dance, echoes, rippling
Glass of the frozen ocean. Alaskan bay. Bering Strait. Ridged reflection
Of fickle tides – the way the mouth’s roof quells the tongue.
Water, harried by lips and winter, has something to say:
A moment in such company, it would whisper if it could, would inspire a
Drop of rain to expand in concentric rings, engorge the tides
Of what could not be explained: why are we this / & not nothing
Blood welling from our separating bodies. Blood and salt, and beating wings.
But first, a sentence or many on biocentrism.
The universe & its curious order:
life surpassing physical definition. Lightning
struck the airplane, fried electronics –
unforeseen delays can change the world
from one perspective. The miniature bottle of rum
had been emptied. The pretzel twists were saved.
There’s much to be said for snowy mornings
that no longer exist or have never existed
or have always existed in the corners
of the yard, pressed up against the rose bush,
tight & without bloom – stark bifurcation
of branches & thorns reminding those who care
to notice pure white like nothing left on the bone
after the effervescent frenzy of piranha, or an acid bath
in a black & white Vincent Price reel-to-reel: purity
of clean white bone & the suggestion of life
past, hyperconscious denial or disgust, apprehension,
the righteous awe of leaving, like church, like God, who
has a bone to pick with anyone in awe of themselves –
a state reserved for him/her/it, the power of opportunity,
of gratitude collapsing after fists
of pulled hair evacuate scalps of fragmented
genius – which is why I’ve written it
down, because to say it aloud in such casual fashion
would prove its untruth – even now I am bored with myself
& the tests I took this afternoon promise to take no
longer than an hour & I pass with near perfection
which upon review & without punctuation
suggests genius status and when I read it aloud I drink
from its credit like the wolf spider outside the autumn door,
bulk-size of a quarter, double that in reach, you can
bury the world in penny candy with little more than a half
dollar, but I wouldn’t bank the credit of its weight on this
faulty IQ test. Don’t tell me what to undermine. A squirrel
taps at the stubborn cob perched on the post. A squirrel
perched upon the post is a stubborn tapping cob.
In the forest of compulsive sentience, you decide
which furcation to trod, reader,
the only fortuitous order is yours.
Don’t doll it up, friend, sit with your head in your hands & think.
Partial Hallucination: Six Apparitions of Lenin on a Grand Piano
chords in the trapping
of drawers, bench
from me, I say
the ants are played as chords
when I’m gone
the cancer of black keys will play
its jangle in the change pocket
of the drunk
on the corner’s
distended belly –
Willie, he says
you’ll miss me
when I’m gone,
coughing and spitting
into a sandwich bag, fiddling his
fingers like sonata
of the Laundromat, don’t
make signs like that no more,
steel, Chicago, dig this,
said the scoop to the earthmover
to the wrist of the boy at the grip of the lever of sand
I should say something
cream linens, fresh lemons, meat
woman in the other room, are you a specter?
are you my spectacular short
coming / hovering over a city of chords
like a cloud? & why are you red
through the belly? pull music
from the bench
sleep, won’t you?
the cape has
in back, it is, for now
arrival, it is
a sandwich bag suffering
in mostly major chords
tripped & played by ants, black ants – answer me
this is not a parlor, there are no walls
to be raised / so much
for the sawdust, the flames
of villager’s torch-tips, dancing
in the way only good flames do.
Two corks burdening bottles
of Rex Goliath – he’s back, he’s brushed
along thick paper to illustrate the city,
brushed his comb along the bamboo ceiling
fan, neon, & one of us ordered vegan green
curry over rice. Who spoon fed us
the notion that hope was the strongest system
of control? Like lightning, we are grounded
by will. We are rubber soles
on the rims of a Chevy Malibu, Eco-Drive, 2013.
Did you drop me in the toilet? One of us says
to the phone. The neighborhood rings
internally. The spinning brass cock
on the roof points east. We are waiting for the peak
of interaction. We’re waiting for Pad Thai. We crack
the door a bit when the bell rings. Tongues of light
lick the steps & the cratered face of David
the delivery boy, who hands it over & grins like a fish.
He says light is not enough, folding a handful of cash,
he says dude you’re uncorked, disintegrate the dark.
Suffice to say the streetlights were graffiti.
& every spicy wonton held a knife between its teeth.
Gerhard, are you listening?
The Evolution of Expressionism
Flaking paint on a white window sill, an aperture, a glimpse into the belly of a clay-brick house in Delft. Through fibers of refracting light, view of the river, the smell of salt and fish on the wind, thatched roofs shielding feathered card sharps from evening rain. Racks of split lamb hanging, hogs blood on a splattered apron, a man’s thick hands wrapping flanks of beef in crisp butcher’s paper.
The new continent, a clear strike at what was considered primitive, unsheathing from a quiver, stiff blue bristles splitting hide.
Criticism: the stark appreciation of desert landscape. Bearded lizards fat on rocks, dusted by tumbling brambles sweeping vast, impartial terrain; exhumed is He in the headdress. Drinking from a trickling waterfall oasis. He points, addresses his fingers, counts dimensions on one hand.
There is futility in his alchemy, the feeble attempt to turn the image of a bramble
into a bramble.
Thwarted, he slaps an open hand on a limestone slab, his jowls full of blackberry juice. From the corner of his pursed lips pops a dark trickle, he blows.
He blows pigment at the back of his hand.
He blows, to call attention to the blowing.
And of the expectorant mist births a She Wolf, like Venus of foam, who prowls the earth, seething, tearing limb from limb the boy at the soda shop and the police officer with a tipped cap, and the gaggle of beanpole basketball players, and the thanksgiving turkey.
She pounds spikes through planks to board the flaking window, disturbing the view to which we’ve grown accustomed. She buries the sickle, red with communism, marks its grave by drumming on an upturned bucket. She howls at the moon, runs wild in the hills.
There’s an empty space where a storm petrel once was.
And a place on the ledge for a falcon
statue. Things become clear in the afternoon
unaffected by dawn’s ghostly influence, that promise
taker. A newspaper does its dance along the sidewalk
like a downed bird, back and forth at the curb, silently
announcing the local silverback gorilla,
Coco, died in childbirth.
A series of empty streets collide
A series of unused cities relax and pray
on itheir knees in a main intersection, equally empty.
Somewhere nearby there is of course a church.
In the mouth of its only attendant, crust of the body.
The scent of roaming dogs, blooming gardens, books
gone stale. Their particulate presence
dried up and ushered off
by the wind, who owns this now, this place of streets
and barns and bells overtaken by owls
moving clouds, bowing tall grasses.
One town over, a falcon takes the day in talons
as a dove announces mourning – the wind whispers
to it, go on, go quickly… the pigeons are coming.
All of this for a lift / all of this for a moment
in a world where feather’s heavier than bone.
JIM DAVIS is a graduate of Knox College and an MFA candidate at Northwestern University. Jim lives, writes, and paints in Chicago, where he reads for TriQuarterly and edits North Chicago Review. His work has received Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations, and has appeared in Wisconsin Review, Seneca Review, Adirondack Review, The Midwest Quarterly, andColumbia Literary Review, among others. In addition to the arts, Jim is a teacher, coach, and international semi-professional football player. jimdavisart.com