Poetry from Jim Davis


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.

Jim Davis




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.


Jim Davis



Partial Hallucination: Six Apparitions of Lenin on a Grand Piano

after Dalí



ants played

chords in the trapping

of drawers, bench

cushion, carved

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



phosphorescent halos

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 suppose

I should say something

of Lenin


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

been safety-pinned

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.



Jim Davis




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.


Jim Davis



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.


Jim Davis





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 ReviewSeneca Review, Adirondack Review, The Midwest Quarterly, andColumbia Literary Review, among othersIn addition to the arts, Jim is a teacher, coach, and international semi-professional football player. jimdavisart.com

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