SPLIT THIS ROCK: Poems of Provocation & Witness

Heather Davis



He works the front desks of apartment buildings,
reading Harlequin Romances, anything in English
to pull himself up. As he reads, he watches the ladies
slip hips-first across the threshold with something
beatific to extend him—a bare arm, a bite of bread.
They can see he is a man between worlds,
that every push of the button to buzz them in
ushers his brothers that much closer across the sea.

Back in his village, his mother tells stories no one
else remembers to the laundry as she beats it.
In his absence, her hands have turned into dark,
flightless birds—too much sun, too many fields.
She understands he will misplace the ancient
names of their heroes. He will let them fall
from his body at night like apples or dead skin.
Tonight, he dreams of border guards and angry dogs,
how much money he could make in a new town.




My sister rolls her eyes when I tell her
about death in the minefields of love,
how sex is like an unexploded bomb
festering deep inside the earth.

At sixteen, she shouldn’t let
the skater boys fuck her yet
because they have wheels
to run her over with.

Sometimes it seems like a war—
teenaged girls against the world,
searching in bars and back alleys,
in bedrooms for self-approval.

I tell her “use a condom” like
I'm saying a rosary, chanting a charm,
but it's her heart too, nicotine-ripped
and untested, I can't protect.


Heather Davis earned a B.A. in English from Hollins University and an M.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University. She attended the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets, and is a winner of the 1991 Hayden Carruth Poetry Prize at Syracuse University, a Larry Neal Writer's Award, and the 2007 Arlington County Moving Words Poetry Contest. She is the author of The Lost Tribe of Us, which won the 2007 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Cream City Review, Poet Lore, Puerto del Sol, and Sonora Review, among others. She lives in Front Royal, Virginia with her husband, the poet José Padua, and their daughter. She also serves on the coordinating committee of the Split This Rock Poetry Festival and is an active member of D.C. Poets Against the War.


Published in Volume 9, Number 1, Winter 2008.

Read more by this author:
Heather Davis: Evolving City Issue