Sunday Jun 23

DavenportLaura Laura Davenport is the author of Dear Vulcan, forthcoming from LSU Press, and the chapbook Little Hates (Dancing Girl Press). Her poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2009, Crab Orchard Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Sow's Ear Poetry Review, among others. She is the recipient of a Hackney Literary Award, James River Writers/Richmond Magazine Best Poem award, and a Meridian Editors' Choice award. She lives in Savannah, Georgia.

The Year of Small Boats

The motor churns up mud, the tide is low,
the August air heavy with itself,

and you ask if I’m afraid to spend the night
with you, in this johnboat tied to the dock

of an empty house. Off John’s Island,
the road ravels back to pine woods

and plantation scars cut through the marsh,
where we explore the roosts of pelicans

and cranes, white smatterings where you find
a small, cracked femur. All summer

you’ve looked for omens,
squinting behind dark glasses

as the dock lifts with a speedboat’s passing,
as though the waving grass and sunlight on the water

pained you, as from the warped gangway
that leads up to the house, I study the line

where mud turns into grass. Because I love you,
I ask straight out: Is it my mouth, my body

that could heal you? I’ll lay us down on the oyster bed
where the water laps. You laugh,

say you wish instead to be marooned forever,
open another beer, not ready to forget her yet.

You tell a joke: don’t listen to men
who give advice. The cooler fills with empties,

and I think of all the people who have given us
empty offers. When you ask, will this feeling

get worse? I want to prove this latest loss
has made a man of you. And when you turn away

to piss, I take in your brown shoulders and the curve
of your calves. You’ve sworn to remember this

as a year of sorrow, but I will see you balancing
that small craft, giving the finger to the speedboats

as their wakes rock us high against the dock.
Remember, too, the wasp that circles your green trunks,

the way we jump into the mud, sink ankle-deep.
How it is brown and slick, like clay, staining my fingers

as I spread it over my arms, my thighs, your chest,
the brown edge of your collar bone.

If, After I Die, They Want to Write My Biography
after Pessoa

Tell them I had an excellent ear.
Do not say I deceived you.
When they wish you to describe
my likes, my habits, well,

some things are personal.
Show off: well-tuned guitar,
shoes lined with mates, extensive
alphabetized library (providing

I have done these things).
Say I have not passed on, rather
drifted off, as on a ship I loved
or conversation on a summer
porch. Then play all twenty-seven

mixtapes you made
because you can’t stop grieving,
spend nights counting off
the quiet seconds between songs,

the click of the rewind.
When you wake cold, remember:
I miss you most. Don’t think
otherwise. Beg me to haunt you.

Beg my pregnant ghost, round,
open mouth. Tell them I am
wherever you are now.

Request for Patience

Documents burn on the capitol lawn,
and the fields are green around Richmond: 1865,

war ends as light softens husked warehouses,
pavement blushed with April pollen

while a man stands close to the river,
the bridge he crossed burned away. Worn through

and wet, he smells of mold and blood, the sodden
trunks of the cherry trees here, on the cemetery ridge

above the fall line. Here, where I am trying
this moment to tell you how the grandfather

of my grandfather turned away from that city’s shell,
walked home. Again south, land blooms overnight,

the lane he walks weaving through maple, turkey oak
and pine, burnt fields and encampments.

In Georgia he buries the last of his things,
and wakes to the slow lilt of bees—his wife

waiting still, recording each new ruin, the fields
left to the encroaching woods.

Now picture the warm stripe of sun on his back
(my hand is on your back), the sudden rains

pulled from the hills. I do not know how long it takes
to walk that far, how it feels to wait out midday

in the shade of an oak, dust covering worn wool
you expected to die in. Who cares whether all this

is true? You want me to say he made it,
didn’t lose himself in the play of light, or lean

against a trunk (as I would do), entranced
by the quiet. But isn’t there something marvelous

about this waiting? His wife on the porch, shading
her eyes. The slow turn of a day. The space

between what was and what comes after,
which is never empty, but full of our own breath,

the call of mockingbirds. Then I say have patience,
have patience with me. Pretend I am that man walking.