I have hope in the sum

I did not let, gradually, myself be privatized,

did not let, did not let man plant
                     the attribute of badness inside

my mind….   to have to live in
                                      someone else’s idea

is civilization.

I came and could not conserve myself,

came and could not metabolize
the happenings:

                 neighborn, I came among
the touchable,

and, numerous in the grass, I was
a finger among fingers—

                                            on me
                                                            the sun

paid the great attention,
a light not only
                                in the service
        of persons,

and fell     & raised myself

up again to feet
              or near to standing,

for such as I was
I was eligible.

I did not come in the posture of apology:
I am the body here

                                    for the ones buried,
                   for each seed

                                                     secretly believing

it will be the repeated thing.

I did not let the names fall asleep
on the named,

                I do not speak the sentences
that sell things:

                              Landlord and waterlord,

this which is ever being
tested on our animal.

This animal I am being
human in,

                           this nakedness

from which we are
not dismissed,

    poor creature clad
in its brief Authority,

it occupies me

this errand out of narrowness,

                 this skull, healed too soon
into descriptions

                                   of a ceiling.

I do not think our minds should be so
many descriptions of a ceiling.

Thru self to arrive
at selves

        and thru selves
the self again,

so we continue the contrary journey.

NOTES: The phrase “a finger among fingers” is drawn from Clayton Eshleman’s translation of Cesar Vallejo’s “[Until the day that I return, from this stone]”. “Landlord and waterlord” is a phrase Ralph Waldo Emerson used jokingly to refer to his newfound stature after purchasing a plot of land at Walden Pond. “Poor creature clad in its brief Authority” is a jotting in the margins of one of John Keats’ copies of Shakespeare, housed at Houghton Library, Harvard University. “Neighborn” originated as a manifesto for elected solitude and its unacknowledged magnitudes; it is dedicated to the inimitable “nay” of Emily Dickinson and other brave beings who have contributed their stone to the cairns of alternative journeys. I, too, have hope in the sum.

Christina Davis is the author of Cairn (a chapbook forthcoming in 2018); An Ethic (Nightboat Books, 2013); Forth A Raven (Alice James Books, 2006); and the manuscript-in-progress Mankindness. The grateful recipient of residencies from the MacDowell Colony and the Rockefeller Foundation/Bellagio Center, she currently serves as curator of the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard University.


Recent writing

E Read More

PoetryMay 19, 2024

“Everything only connected by ‘and’ and ‘and’”: On Elizabeth Bishop and Disappointment

In prose that’s erudite and accessible, former Editor-in-Chief of At Length, Jonathan Farmer, explores why “[s]o many of Elizabeth Bishop’s poems end with something audibly, willfully unsatisfying.” Covering Bishop’s career from “The Map” (1946) to her late elegy for Robert Lowell, “North Haven” (1977), Farmer’s claim will send you back to Bishop’s poems with new eyes.

W Read More

PoetryFebruary 16, 2024


“[W]hat am I to do / about beauty, about / my fear that beauty // has made me arrange / every experience in a word / and image too neatly // for them to bear / much semblance to life,” Paisley Rekdal asks in this confessional, ekphrastic poem written in response to George Stubb’s famed painting of an Arabian thoroughbred, “Whistlejacket” (1762), on view at the National Gallery in London.

S Read More

PoetryFebruary 9, 2024


“[H]ow do they bear this heat Who / knows who can say what will change,” Joanna Klink writes of this poem’s eponymous plant, also known as trumpet pitchers, as she explores our climate crisis and her relationship with her father in language that is both colloquial and catastrophic, meditative and urgent.

T Read More

PoetryApril 11, 2023

Three Weeks

“I am going to try to write / A little. // I have nothing at stake but my life.” In Dawn Potter‘s sequence, a 19th century woman alternates between diary entries and poems, trying to make sense of her life, her obligations, her hunger for holiness, and a feeling of disaster or deliverance just out of view.

Begin typing your search above and press return to search. Press Esc to cancel.