Hayes Davis



The beach as I had never seen it: November, wind
that wasn’t breeze, sun that wasn’t warm, surf that held
the odd smile of scattering his ashes in the place he loved.
The sky stretched in cliché. I held the urn. We stood

in a circle, a radio played “Hymn to Freedom.” I didn’t want
to let go, didn’t want to let go. My brothers and I
carried him to the water. So many ashes, a pile
on the wet sand. The surf came, swept. We walked

back up the beach. I turned, watched until the surf took
everything—dust, chips, fragments, took my father out to sea.



The sticker on the watermelon said
“seeded.” I grimaced, imagining hundreds
of small eyes staring at me even as I spit
them out, DuBois’ dual consciousness
come to culinary life. Did the cashier share
my vision?—she wrapped bag after bag
around the complicated, heavy orb.
I stopped her after the fourth, content quick
glances wouldn’t see through the layers,
might think “Magruders,” instead of “Just
like it says in the encylclopedia!” Walking
out of the store I thought of Charlton,
who learned DuBois in my class and confessed
that even before he could put a name to his
second set of eyes he never ate fried chicken
in the student lounge. I wondered when it started,

when the sphere grew large and inconvenient,
when I began to see myself and myself
as through a glass darkly—perhaps after my mother
took offense at the man who said through a smile
he “just knew” I loved basketball, or the fifth ad
for McDonald’s chicken populated by nothing
but black faces. Maybe the watermelon grew heavy
with my help, nurtured by an identity too dual,
more conscious of history than taste. At home,

blinds drawn, I licked my lips, sliced through
the striped shell, even as I pictured 1930s cartoons,
grinning mouths separating bite after bite of red
from rind—but the red I exposed was too dark,
the insides over-ripe, sweetness soured, spoiled.


.......For Cornelius and Sarah

Their feet own a pattern on the dance floor.
Years of love have practiced this improvisation.
Their ears know the inside walls of the bass
and their legs are possessed by the speakers.

Years of love have practiced this improvisation
that makes jealous couples head for the door.
Their legs are possessed by the speakers,
share space that fits in warm grooves of vinyl.

Jealous couples who don't head for the door
marvel at movement of pelvis to legs to funk.
Sharing space that fits in warm grooves of vinyl,
the dancers don't feel anything but the hip shake.

Marvelous movement of pelvis to legs to funk
shows their ears know the inside walls of the bass.
The dancers don't feel anything but the hip shake;
their feet own a pattern on the dance floor.



.......“I love you more than sleep.”
.............. —from my wedding vows

Bring me clumsy
with worry, awkwardly
cradling head, arms.
Bring me filthy
with exhaustion, bring me
chaos of diapers, toys,
little socks everywhere
and nowhere, books
underfoot, the dog
colored with crayon—
test my patience for clutter,
prolonged untidiness.
Bring me papers to grade
in snatches of time, meals
claimed between bottles
and baths, stupefying tears,
unchecked by cuddling,
feeding, driving, singing.
Bring me sad to leave
daycare, bring me rushing
from the office for fevers,
infections bring me
tantrums, negotiations—

Bring us compromised
intimacy, movies at home
bring us thrifty vacations,
more chicken, less steak
shopping not for ourselves,
bring us meals out for time,
not romance bring us
impatient with each other
over nighttime diapers
discipline methods.
Bring us squeezing
the budget for piano,
ballet, bring us weekends
scheduled as tightly as
weeks. Bring us knowledge,
trials left out this poem,
hope unsuppressed
by months upon months
upon months of empty.


Hayes Davis was born in Philadelphia, PA. He moved to the Washington, DC area in 1998 to attend the University of Maryland and take part in the broad and diverse DC writing community; while at Maryland he won an Academy of American Poets Prize and earned a Masters of Fine Arts degree. His work has been published in Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem's First Decade, Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam, and Toi Derricotte's The Black Notebooks. He is a former Bread Loaf working scholar and a founding member of Cave Canem, a workshop and retreat for African American poets. He teaches literature and creative writing at Georgetown Day School, and lives in Silver Spring with his wife, poet Teri Ellen Cross, and their Jack Russell terrier, Id.


Published in Volume 8, Number 1, Winter 2007.

To read more by this author:
Hayes Davis: Langston Hughes Tribute Issue