Chris Davidson has been published in Zyzzyva, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Rumpus, Spark & Echo Arts, Green Mountains Review, and elsewhere. A chapbook, Poems, appeared in 2012, and he keeps an inconsistently updated blog at 52songs.blogspot.com. We are proud to premiere these poems in Cultural Weekly.
Maps take the land’s variability and make it
divisible. We then say, This is Coney Island
or that is Huntington Beach or St. John, KS.
And then you can buy property there or there.
We don’t say a land is a map, but we do say
it’s mapped, and then it’s no longer thought of
as something unfolding in/against the line
of horizon but something seen from above,
lined and marked and starred. I can get to X
via Y and buy Z: The map makes the land a thing
that pays. A person, then, what about her
(or him)? What makes a person pay?
I say it’s their face, but my sister says
it’s what they do. No, says Mom, it’s what
their fathers do. My brother says,
Age and Beauty reckon the Wage Not
The Worth of Man. My father stays silent,
so I goad him some: Dad, can a finger pay?
If it presses the right button, he says.
What about a toe? No, he says. Well,
a woman’s toe, he says, that can pay,
if groomed and painted cherry red
in an open-toed sandal beneath the edge
of a summer dress. Mom’s clogs galumph.
As time, or whatever, has moved
In its unidirectional way, custom’s
Elided the thee from farewell.
Yet goodbye of this kind—like the
Goodbye of goodbye—still implies
Intimacy, the ghosted thee akin
To tú when used instead of usted—
I know you and want you to fare well,
Friend—while good contains within it
God. In each parting there is a blessing.
We don’t know where we are going.
The perfect drift
of your lower lip
your upper is echo
to colliding continents
in Asia, effecting
Himalayas. I’ll make
the shelf below your
neck base camp,
and start my climb
after dark; tomorrow
I hope to summit,
afternoon. No oxygen.
These are no risk:
dehydration, frost bite,
the swelling of the brain—
they avail to one
the point, unveil it.
Too Late for Me
A pretty penny, I told my son,
who’d asked how much the gas we pumped
was costing us. And later,
driving past houses larger and more
exquisite than ours, I said,
To live here would cost you
a pretty penny. Too late for me,
but if it weren’t I might meet and love
a girl named Penny, in skirts and flats
sensibly dressed and quick of mind,
my Pretty Penny, whom I’d call
when first fallen to the crux
of her open limbs, or at fault
explaining why I’d done what I did,
returning to my high-walled home
after years adrift, an easy mark for wills
stronger and subtler than me,
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