Two Poems

When the Stones are Undone

                Their faces will be like flames.
                Isaiah 13:8

We sang “Shall We Gather at the River,” and the preacher cried out 
that only God knows when the stones of the temple will fall. 
After the sixth hurricane made landfall, the dam failed like a broken cage, 
and the reservoir washed down the mountain. Water possesses the longest 
memory. When freed it carves a path that may last ten thousand years. 
In disbelief we wave our hands through empty air: stone replaced 
by a language long-forgotten, spoken in words a river invents 
as it topples trees, houses, barns, as it carries cars a mile downstream.
More than fifty years since the river in Ohio caught fire, factory waste 
a flammable icing. Now gas leaks from the submerged station 
and a spark flares. With each explosion, in the firelit dark we smear ash 
on foreheads and breasts, croak cries similar to the burning herons 
and egrets who stumble on air, no longer able to fly 
above the flames of God’s unguarded jaws.

Of This World

A warbler beats its wings at the blueness,
and a brown boy raises an arm in praise.

Somewhere the tongue of God laps the water
where the wind crosses the surface.

On the logging road a ruffed grouse drums,
and the bodies of the dead ripen with stories.

The true passage of time is marked
by what birds and trees perceive.

Too often we sought to kiss grief’s lips
when we were young.

Now we are old, it’s no pleasure to watch
the chickadee peck a winterkilled deer.

A dove flies down from the moon,
and a woman lifts a baby to a breast.

On the mountain a bear eats two berries, imprisoning
the honeyed darkness on the tongue’s underside.

How did we ever forget all the world’s
an upper room?


Todd Davis

Todd Davis is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently Native Species (2019) and Winterkill (2016), both published by Michigan State University Press. His writing has won the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Bronze and Silver Awards, the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, and the Chautauqua Editors Prize. He teaches environmental studies at Pennsylvania State University’s Altoona College.