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Hayes Davis
Poems

About the Poet
Hayes Davis holds a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Maryland; he is a member of Cave Canem's first cohort of fellows, and a former Bread Loaf working scholar.

His work has appeared in New England Review, Poet Lore, Gargoyle, Beltway Poetry Quarterly and several anthologies.

He teaches English at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, and lives in Silver Spring with his wife, poet Teri Ellen Cross, and their daughter.

Inundated
After Watching Hurricane Katrina Coverage on CNN

What tides move in him? At what watermark
did survival instinct kick in? How much water
is too high for wading? At what pitch
of a baby's cry does the father think diapers
or food instead of too deep, too much wind? On film

his trudge out of the French Quarter Walgreen's
will be labeled "looting," his visage, gait
indistinguishable (to the casual viewer)
from people clutching stereos, sneakers, alcohol,
any item the newsroom seems to suggest
black people grab first. But look closely,

see Huggies under his right arm - who can
know his story? Who wouldn't grab a 12-pack,
if the bad day that sends us to Scotch on a Tuesday
were strung together for months, for lifetimes,
if what a teenager makes working a summer job
had to feed a family, if healthcare, a house
were fleeting dreams? So look

again - he carries milk with the Huggies and he's
black and he might not have made it home but you
wouldn't, probably, have heard if he didn't so call him
father, or husband, maybe Larry, or Junior, handsome,
thoughtful, drenched, scared, but not "looter."

To top


~

Musings

If you believe studies, statistics, myth,
I'll leave when my wife's belly swells,

terrified of diapers, irked by crying,
drawn to the shadow, siren song

of urban streets. If you hear wisdom
in voices of multiplex movie fathers,

Nielsen dads, sports-talk radio paternalists,
I cannot be bothered with nurturing

or sensitivity - I will want a boy, will bark
"Suck it up!" when he falls, will try to trade

Barbies for boxing gloves if saddled with a girl.
But popular thought and culture give you

no name, precedent for the ache and envy
engendered in me by the sight of a newborn,

no name for the phenomenon that created
baby lust before I had finished grad school.

If I subscribe to history's lessons, I should
blame my wife for this wait, imagine something

disfigured in her, but I nearly severed ties
with my mother when an unconsidered pronoun

in her letter to family, friends placed the burden
of infertility on my wife. The only history I

can reference is brothers who waited years
for progeny, but one myth that's part truth

is men don't always share sadness that rests
on a foundation of vulnerability. Besides

"take cold showers" I've learned little from them,
but what, really, could they tell me

that might unravel this Gordian frustration,
this monthly and monthly mystery?

To top


~

Safe

"You driving, Hayes?" I look up, shaken
from tunnel-vision anticipation of seeing
my girlfriend, and the romantic promise of a keg,
beer pong. "Yeah," I reply, and he offers

to follow me home, bring me back to the party
in his car before I start impairing my judgment.
Such a possibility hasn't occurred to me,
but then I guess that's why Joe doesn't wait

for the parents to figure it out, or stop lying
to themselves. He waits, sober, offers rides
with no questions, his headlights odd reassurance
in my rearview. On the way back we talk

about the approaching summer: the beach,
Six Flags, the still-mythical idea of college life.
I'm pretty sure I thanked him, but now -
when I imagine the adolescents I teach

spilling out midnight doors, keys in one hand,
cell phone the other - I wish I'd thanked him more.

To top


~

42nd & First

In the moment between "Just" and "drive"
I measured him, the man outside the cab

whose arm looked less strained than it should
as he reached for her but found the handle

when she slammed the door. As I flipped
the meter I looked at his eyes, which flitted

between the car window and something else
in his line of vision - it kept his attention

a little too long for me to believe he'd be upset
for very long if she rode away. In the rearview,

her tensed jaw reflected determination, resolve
that does not easily place itself between the desire

to leave and the need to stay in some version
of stability. So I swallowed the "Where to?"

that she had answered before it was asked,
and my ears heard the city again. I closed my fingers

around the steering wheel, my foot pushed
the accelerator. His three small, chasing steps

toward the back of the car told me as much
as his eyes had. After nine blocks, she told me

to stop. I wanted to take her further uptown,
pull the car over, remove the glass between us

and talk to her about his eyes. But all I said
when she tipped me very well was "Take care."


~

~ Hayes Davis
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