How Our Names Turn into Light

by Todd Davis Issue: Fall 2015
One man hammers stone

      in the middle of a quarry; another

cuts blocks from its side. In faraway cities

      monuments are constructed, and the abandoned

pit fills with water and fish. Grain by grain

      the mountains diminish. In one sacred story

Christ bends to write in the sand; today, in this place,

      clouds shadow goldenrod fringe: bees and flies

moan with the pleasures of pollen

      smeared on abdomens. With legs heavy

from treasure, it’s difficult to remember

      that farther north polar bears starve

as sea-ice recedes. Where we’ve fractured

      the earth’s scapula, grief shudders involuntarily

like an aspen leaf. Some would have us believe

      that death is consensual. We should practice

gratefulness, as Basho did, who gave thanks

      for teeth to chew his evening meal of dried salmon.

The wind erases most of what’s written

      in the sand. The rain washes the rest.


Todd David, winner of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize and the Chautauqua Editors Prize, is the author of five full-length collections of poetry, most recently Winterkill and In the Kingdom of the Ditch, both published by Michigan State University Press. He teaches creative writing, American literature, and environmental studies at Pennsylvania State University’s Altoona College and is a fellow in the Black Earth Institute.  New poems are published or forthcoming in Gettysburg Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Arts & Letters, Poet Lore, and Poetry East.