Call me Libra as I hold the gut pull
of last week’s amusement park family selfies
and today’s seaside nirvana sans children
in equal esteem. Diplomat till I die,
I claim this grip on two truths with distant
emotional zip codes. Give me the chest swell of pride,
the citizen inspired by the national poet’s
verse describing the lips or arms of a Laura who’s
not the national poet’s wife. I root for lion
and wildebeest, quieted rumble of hunger
or escape’s flutter of adrenaline. Witness my trips
from college to my parents’ separate homes,
how watching meals planned or cobbled,
living budgets followed or flown on pants-seats,
wrapped my head around their separation.
My 12 year-old can glare all she wants when I
compliment the British BMX rider who nailed
the front-flip and the 360 handlebar twist to beat
the American, because I can root for and against
this freedom, this land of beach, canyon,
and deep forest repopulated by displacement,
razed by greed, watered with blood. Give me all
the contradictions as I live them myself–
German and Black, man and gentle.
Manasota Key, FL
Pocket your cameras, you silly walkers.
I will not be your story for social media—
no pics but I did happen, dancing this leaden expanse
before you tried to click me. If I see arms at your sides
I’ll jump at that late afternoon snack of a fish,
but your lenses get only my middle finger dorsal arch
and maybe a flick of tail. The whales tell me you stalked
a pod further North, tried to record a calf feeding.
When your young wrap lips to nipples do I train
my Polaroid, lament what escapes my lens? Sure,
Like you we sex for pleasure, tease the weak, violate
because we can but who are you to treat my meal
as spectacle, my mere presence some glint of hope,
assurance that your kind hasn’t killed the whole ocean?
I’m surprised you haven’t drunk-dialed me,
honestly. But Poem-a-Day called—you haven’t
rung her bell in a month of Sundays. You’re lucky
I like you enough to nod in quiet sunset from time to time.
I know you’ll pick up that pen, try to squeeze
out something about apricot, ochre, and goldenrod
between dinner and dishes, before bedtime
and “bedtime!” and “did you brush *and* floss?”
and “Bedtime!” 7am would say it better—
but that’s when you’re tangling yourself in your list
of what you think needs doing. The beach called—
she’s got what you need next week, promises she’ll fill
that second mental track with gulls and swells
instead of grocery lists, meal planning and carpool.
She’ll let you spend days with me and my friends,
bothered by nothing but biting flies and jellyfish.
Hayes Davis’ first volume, Let Our Eyes Linger was published by Poetry Mutual Press, and he won a 2022 Maryland State Arts Council Regional Independent Artists Award. His poems appear in New England Review, Poet Lore, Mom Egg Review, Gargoyle, Auburn Avenue, and Fledgling Rag. His work has also been included in several anthologies, and he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016 and 2017. He is a member of Cave Canem’s first cohort of fellows, a former Bread Loaf working scholar, and has attended or been awarded writing residencies at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Soul Mountain, and Manhattanville College. He has taught English, coordinated/directed equity and justice work, and advised student clubs in Washington, D.C. independent schools for more than two decades. He lives in Silver Spring with his wife, poet Teri Ellen Cross Davis, and their children.