In the valley, where corn and beans grow in rowsmapped by GPS, farmers feed cows and hogs tetracyclineand testosterone. After butchering them in dark tin buildings,they slop the remains to the survivors so the animals, shoulder-to-shoulder, eat their own kind. At night, because of the lightsthe townspeople burn on their porches or hang from poststo comfort themselves, only the brightest stars are woveninto the black. The heat of summer lasts too long,and the boy who lives on the mountain is raised from the sweatof his bed to look down on the town's spectral glow.He can't hear the corn-leaves rustle when the breezefrom the poisoned river swells, but he smells the paper milland thinks about swimming in what pours from its pipes,the carp he fishes for that turn on their sides.Where a fire scorched the dirt the year he was bornhuckleberries grow on a talus slope near the peak.To escape the heat, he climbs to the field in the dark and standson the biggest rock, stretching arms like an egret.Flight's a kind of forgiveness, and here fireflies blinkmercifully among berry branches, miniature lamplightersfinishing their rounds for the night. They rise up and driftabout his head, landing on arms and legs, gloving fingersin a green luminescence. As if he were a rotting log in a swamp,laced with fungus that pulses like a star, he joins the milk-washof the infinite, a beacon for other heavenly bodiesalready falling in bright streaks to the earth.
This work originally appeared in Todd Davis, Coffin Honey, 2022, published by Michigan State University Press.
Todd Davis is the author of seven full-length collections of poetry as well as a limited-edition chapbook, Household of Water, Moon, & Snow. His writing has won the Midwest Book Award, the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, the Chautauqua Editors Prize, the Bloomsburg University Book Prize, and the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Silver and Bronze Awards.
"Reading Todd Davis’s gorgeous poems, you can’t help but feel that the capacities of human vision, and also our appetite for exactly this way of seeing and naming, have been mysteriously, precisely increased."
—Jane Hirshfield, author of Come, Thief and The Beauty
"Todd Davis is one of America’s most capacious and imaginative poets. He has an unparalleled ability to weave a new history from the immediate, meditating on the natural world with imagistic elegance and lyric dignity. In his exquisite seventh book Coffin Honey, Davis is in tune with both the mundane and the spiritual in revelatory ways. Every poem here teaches us something more about need, something more about compassion, and the nuanced violence we encounter in between."
—Adrian Matejka, author of Somebody Else Sold the World
“'All prey is ensouled . . . their souls are snared in the same sprung trap,' Davis declares in Coffin Honey. In his seventh, perhaps most daring book to date, Davis invokes the geography that marks his distinctive voice in an array of dramatic monologues, character-driven narratives, and lyrics that brim with emotional complexity, social and historical witness, and sonic richness. Ursus, actual bear and as spirit, is a guide and moral compass in this constellation of poems that deftly exposes the precarity of our existence and the violence we enact on one another and the environment. In Coffin Honey, Davis delivers riveting, gut-wrenching poems, artfully pitched between elegy and hope for our collective past, present, and future."
—Shara McCallum, author of No Ruined Stone