Fate of the Baby Truth
I bear truth like a bawling child, offer her to my mother
Who puts her in a shoebox by the fire, dog in a cheap,
Small bed, but unwilling to be quieted by bone or toy.
Disturbed, my mother tries to arrange her like a paper
Flower amid artificial greenery, innocence in a vase,
Still calling attention to troubled head and belly. Then
My mother takes out watercolors, paints a border
Around the noisy minuscule, to fade her into walls,
Make her fit amid middle-class home accoutrements.
But my truth is hysterical, small body, aggrandizing,
Wailing, as the garage door opens, and my father comes
From work, pours a water glass full of booze, turns up
The volume of the TV news with remote, as if the world’s
Suffering could take place in the living room, while he sits,
Then lies, then passes out, liver silently giving up ghosts.
Here we are, amalgam of panic and grace, dancing always
On the brink of catastrophe. Jittery, shy, we kick off platforms,
Bare our thighs in seventies gym shorts, our breasts beneath
Decaled t-shirts: Ziggy and Joe Cool. The floor opens to reveal
Not a pool, but a precipice overlooking vehicles on a six-lane
Highway. We cha-cha then dip over the rush of concrete, life,
Abrasive and quick, man in a pickup tailgating woman in dented
Sedan, children ferried by helicopter parents from bus to heated
Interior, nurses, lawyers, clerks, factory workers, all completing
Another shift, you, in the future, an ambulance fueled by adrenaline,
The rapid heartbeat of medical mysteries, pistachios, kiwis, babies,
Allergies. The world inflames your immune system, and I fly away,
A plane ascending over wires and clouds, at last fleeing family, but
Keeping the rhythm in blood, duet continuing deep in my marrow.
My Daredevil History
Young, I was separated from my family of daredevils:
My mother, a stunt pilot, smoking love letters in the sky,
Complete with hearts and curlicues, somersaulting as if
She had no pit to her stomach, adventurer over gulfs, forests,
And fields; my sister took after her, shooting bare-bellied
From a cannon, silver glitter helmet nestled on her red curls,
Fleet as a bird, seeing long views of earth, finally diving into
A pond or hay bale, her publicity truck picking her up, blaring
Her name and victory music, erupting with confetti and balloons;
My brother jumps his motorcycle over a mile of junked cars,
Across river canyons, where rapids bubble under his boots,
Past swamps chock-full with alligators, snakes, and hunters,
Triumphantly soaring, landing erect, wheels, dry tracks on roads;
And my father, a lithe seventy-year-old, surfing the curling waves
Off shark-infested beaches, unafraid, eager for wind and spray,
The long paddle and the rising to his feet, toes hanging off edge,
Catching air, more dolphin than man. However, I was taken in
By a conventional pair, grew silent and pained before the active
Television, lived still as a column of figures in an accounting pad.
But at night, while the neighborhood sleeps, I wander and think,
Muscles and face, reflections of wild genes, persistent adrenaline.
Katherine Davis earned a Ph.D. specializing in American poetry from Duke University. Her poems have previously appeared in Weber, Stepping Stones, Wild Goose Review, Convergence, Sheila-na-gig, The Oddville Press, Literary Heist, Menacing Hedge, The Laurel Review and s/tick. Her chapbook, The Anger Poems, is forthcoming from don’t die press. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2018 and Best of the Net in 2019.