John Davis Jr.

Sunday Serpent


You, sir, are no narrow fellow:

A slow black racer fattened

by pests from my grass clippings pile –

that slither haven musked by your cool

passages scented like soon-coming rain.

Your citrine eye follows my rake –

its harmless teeth your playground

monkey bars, an up-down obstacle

course. Intertwined in tines, you taste

this Sabbath air for garden danger.

My heel will not crush you today, friend.

I shake you toward the warm grey porch

where lucky legged lizards run among rungs

of sun-worn, rain-warped rockers –

their near-zero bones scattering your prey.


Elegy for Flight


A poem written on my birthday

When I find the dead bird

on our cabin’s front porch,

I anticipate ants

trailing toward its eyes:

tiny black slits

like pinched periods. Silenced whitespace throat

declares absence purity. Its body – grey

and parenthetical as afterthought –

stops at comma-curled

graspless talons.

At this age do questions

end without rise.

My earth-heavy trowel scrapes

exclamation enough:

point and hole

readied for burial.


Two Perspectives on Hawks


J-Byrd’s grandfather shot them:

With his deer rifle, he scoped in distant

red-tailed killers – their black eyes,

sharp-feathered breasts. He dropped

them limp from power lines and fence posts.

They eat our chickens, J-Byrd justified.

My grandfather marveled at them:

God’s sharpest creations, he traced

their fierce profiles shadowing

our orange grove as we planted new trees.

Peering down the barrel of his muddy finger,

he added, They eat all the pests.

Across the acres, gunfire ripped

the cold air of black-earth morning.

My shovel dug another hole

for beginning life, for hope.


Summer's Last Dig


For my younger son, the angler who asks why

Because soon enough school will make you forget

cilia staked into rolled earth, rendering

worms unpluckable, we tunnel and tug

in shade-leaved soil. Our trident fingers

summon night crawlers from dampened dirt.

Because fall’s contorted-brow teachers will note

then judge black-clotted fingernails, gritted

with loam and hard curiosity, we ridge and groove

this darker path with fishermen’s finesse,

filling mason-jar fragile air with substance.

Because hours are not measured best by bells but sand,

and the dusty hands of classroom clocks move slower

than decay, today we seize our vessels,

loaded with lively and fluid segments,

to examine this excavated moment.

        return to poetry

John Davis Jr. is the author of Middle Class American Proverb (Negative Capability Press, 2014). His poetry has been published in literary journals internationally, with recent appearances in Kentucky Review and other fine publications. He holds an MFA from University of Tampa.