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Steve Davenport


Arrange Their Sea-Smooth Bones in Fourteen Broken Rows

In your lizard-skin boots, reread the book of myths.
Dip it two parts whiskey to one part gunpowder.
Fall in tongues or fever, thieving the terrible.
Wake and feel the fell of dark, not day. What black hours.
Then saddle a sea horse and dive into the wreck.
Salvage all you can of the poets buried there.
Arrange their sea-smooth bones in fourteen broken rows.
Art is entrails spilled and a hand drawing itself.
Decide on a syllable count of twelve per line.
Carve out your space as the Cowgirl of Amour Fou
or the Cowboy of Ra rocking the Drunken Boat.
Employ a figure, a sidekick, to kick your ass.
Call him Murfy and take his advice: sonnetry
like shrapnel, like bricks through the living room window.

As If There Were Strength in Boundaries and Walls

One room from the kill floor, your face knuckling into
mine, I curl inward like a slug or a body
or a fist, like liquor returning to a jar
as if there were safety in return, troops and ammo,
as if there were strength in boundaries and walls,
as if the bottle was ever anything but
an analogy for our bag of skin, the neck
our neck, the body our body, the mouth our mouth,
the liquid the self we think is measurable,
containable, the container a glass body
bag, the full measure of who we are, a closed field,
our only escape a killing drain, a pouring
of our self into our self, a self-pitying
erasure, an annihilating inward curl.

These Archaeologies of Self, These Life Studies

Tonight I'm the topographer of my desire.
No need for grace or wings lifting my boot-heeled feet
or any of the tired myths of sobriety.
My bed a map, I'm straddling pillows and blankets
like mountain chains, hurdling ridges, peaks, and mesas
like slurred words, a badlands sonneteer yodeling
and stumbling after Snodgrass through the universe.
At Whiskey Edge, I drink, watch the poets dig, scout
picks for the suicide pool. Serious business,
these archaeologies of self, these life studies.
I like the look of massacre when a poet
gives up sifting, strikes the last vault, the awful blood.
Confessing surfaces only, I stagger on,
the tinhorn poet of drink, see where it gets me.

Like Paint Bullets Exploding, Annie O Hits Me

Throwing spells at the phone like dice, I drink and wait
for Oakley to call about that tour with Tonto,
a murderous poetry spree across the West.
Bang! At ten the door and sharp-shooting Annie O.
My art, she says, is a kind of action painting.
I fire plastic bullets at things that take paint.
Canvases, boards, buildings, animals with thick hides.
How about the moon, I whisper. She slides her hand
down my washboard belly. I done roped that dogie,
even shot it once, but I understand your need.
You're a poet. The moon's important. So let's deal.
I'll drive us all to Tulsa. I have some work there.
Later, the untranslatable. Like paint bullets
exploding, she hits me. I do my best werewolf.

My Prairie Love Blossoms in Wildflower Sonnets

Here's where drink gets me. Over mountains and badlands,
across fields, back to prairie grass. Unrepentant.
My suitcases unloaded in sequence and stacked
on the porch like cartridges, a Remington's length
from the whiskey barrel that has my name on it.
Here's the April scene. Oakley pointing at the moon,
saying the rivers in me are dark and lyric.
I call her a prairie blossom, a cornflower.
A crack shot, she adds. I nod, and the wolves kick in,
their ludic choir yawping epithalamium.
Sounds good, she says, and we drink to frontier in us
and out, the baggage part of it. Scars are stories,
she says. Or poems, I add. Our plan: handfasting
to a sour-mash yodel, things flowing as they will.

                         -from Uncontainable Noise

Listen to "Arrange..."

Listen to "As if lids..."

Listen to "These Archaeologies..."

Listen to "Like paint bullets..."

Listen to "My Prairie Love..."


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