Michael Davidson: Five New Poems

FROG

I’m slouching past the point of no
interruptions the planet dissolving
from its patented heat death; I, too,
watch this cryogenic state thaw
under the stare of the hedge fund,
black car shows up
and gives them a check, I scream
and the sprinklers pulsate
in a thousand yards
because grass is not inevitable
but symptomatic, take my gene pool
all is smooth, no regrets,
and once this gazebo is swept
another will take its place or
no one will notice, a frog
appears on the fountain’s ledge
singing its two beat refrain
it says I’m going in that direction
and I adapt.


GRACE

While billeted among participials
and other progressive forms
frames of indiscretion recombine into plausible
stories of origin
so that upon becoming grammar
one hypothetically strikes one’s forehead
on a sentence striving to form itself
into the subject, capital ‘S,’
the residue of tower, noodles, and ceremonial
song to explain these barriers to terminus
recur intermittently during the day
such that upon meeting him halfway home
one would never know what bullets
penetrate the memory theater, striking
a patron as inconceivable to the plot
and necessary to language, whereupon
he concludes this little tale
of our first parents, burnished in grace.


MOCKINGBIRD

Break open this commonplace, for to be awake
is to see it otherwise; I saw a desert at dawn
from a hurtling Mercedes, I heard a ping when the screen
went black I heard words full of holes
someone wants to come in
but we refuse the order, Mormon at the door
selling the goods, then we had memory
which we attacked with distractions, music was pure
with lyrics of endless life, the road
and the rice, the press and the pen, distance
was not impossible I’ll get back to you
when the sun is up; one mockingbird
is protecting the world from itself
repeating the word for myself.


UNCANNY

Seeks advice on how to get home
(sacrifice, ritual toast, drink blood) where home
(we want to get some of that love) is big business,
I feel ephemeral in the shadow of logo
it keeps drawing me into an agreement I authored,
they say: I feel anxious about my body, I worry
about my general health, work
sets you free, and when money
replaces a doorstop, potatoes, dog food
then we improve it says here
achieving a plural of such substance
as to wake the sleeper
who lives in broadband limbo, connected
yet unsure who is at the door, rituals inoculate
the viewer from choice, knock
on wood.


CEREAL

I’d rather bleed
than pay taxes
sitting in the dark
with my gun against
the gathering dawn
I speak English
in my dreams
dawn reveals a field
of agents measuring
the story poles, my camera
captures them
with my cereal
we’re eating our way
through subsidies,
corn is oil is cow
I remain stubbornly
open and invested
in tracts that promise
golf, but people who walk
in parks must be hunted
asked politely to leave
as a sycamore
bears a white slash
as its visa
these big words
trouble my sleep
my suit is pressed
into public service
as my wife
removes her body
before waking
I have eaten my cereal
without sweetener
and with advancing light
raise my sights
to those hordes
and indigestible foods
that occupy my eye
I trust no one
to remove these dishes
no one to speak
for me, what I keep
to myself is to myself
the sound of mice
in the rafters
is mine, solitude
has been described
in a book
it says do not become
excessive, digressive
be thou me in short
and let neighbors
bury their cats.

[NOTE. Michael Davidson’s prowess as a poet has been obscured in recent years by his other significant work as a critic & chronicler of the works of others (Duncan & Oppen principal among them), along with his foundational contribution to the emerging field of disability poetics. That Coffee House Press is planning to bring out a New & Selected Poems in 2013 may help to set things straight, but in the meantime the following books, most now out of print, are testament to a poet’s mind & voice unflinchingly & unmistakably in the act of becoming: Exchanges (Los Angeles: Prose and Verses Press, 1972); Two Views of Pears (Berkeley: San Dollar, 1973); The Mutabilities (Berkeley: San Dollar, 1976); Summer Letters (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow, 1977); Grill Work (Toronto: Mansfield Book Mart, 1979); Discovering Motion (Berkeley: Little Dinosaur, 1980); The Prose of Fact (Berkeley: The figures, 1981); The Landing of Rochambeau (Providence, Rhode Island: Burning Deck, 1985); Analogy of the Ion (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 1988); Post Hoc (Bolinas, California: Avenue B, 1990); The Arcades (Oakland, California: O Books, 2002).

Previous postings on Poems and Poetics can be found here & here. (J.R.)]