Lauren Davis

Drought

     
   

Above my braids, golden plums hang fat,
testing the strength of branches. I cram
the fruit into my mouth, staining my flat chest
sticky. Layered in my lap—sucked pits. Behind
the tree, barrels collect runoff rain from the roof.   

Drought grows further south. The government stalls
on a solution. They busy themselves trying to quantify
water, but can’t decide on the right methodology—
how to measure something omnipresent but absent.

My mother stoops in the grass to pick up stray sticks.
Her blouse hangs loose, revealing her breasts’ aurous hue.
I suffer thirst without sensing my thirst.

     
         
 

Compliant Cup

     
   

In the tearoom, I lean my ear against
the walled off kitchen and listen
to delicate cups clatter, their lips washed

again and again of strangers’ lips. My teacup
never complains. It gathers and drains
and lays out its mess of leaves

to tell my future, map of flat fortune.
I spin its torn spider web, green dead
stars, for your face, the way a drunk

searches beneath the table for God.
A saucer breaks on the separate side
of the wall, and the server—forever steady,

hands trained to satisfy thirst—
lowers his voice and chants
an irreversible curse.

     
         
 

Crazy Horse Memorial

     
   

The dancer’s tribe and those of other cultures have carved
the memorial out of Thunderhead Mountain for decades.

I could see little of its mass through the fog—only the outline
of the head, the space where the arm outstretched.

He promised three traditional dances with his son, but not before
swearing Native Americans were thriving. For instance, in twenty years,

he’d stayed sober. People clapped. Covered with ninety pounds
of feather, leather, and beads, he opened his arms like a man determined

to fly. His son, slumped beside him, tried to follow, but held his stomach,
eyes lowered beneath a milky gloss, his drunkenness undeniable. His father

took no notice, whirling about—a wind startled flag. Beyond them,
the memorial briefly materialized in the haze, then again disappeared.

     
         
 

Hunter Gatherer

     
   

Tonight your wife hides in the shack skinning the rabbits.
They proved unprofitable this year. You can barely make

her out through the window, her only light the bulb
strapped to her forehead. Her movements look unfamiliar—
a slow, confused symphony conductor setting tempo.

You say no waste is a virtue. But what about all the plums
you stepped on walking the orchard behind the house?

Their juices smear your boots with ebon stains. You did not
can them. Even the deer had their fill. And what of all
the blood on the shack’s dirt floor? Who will that nourish?

Your wife does not tire. She is built strong—trying, failing
with the best of her to save everything given to you.

     
        return to poetry
 

Lauren Davis lives on the Olympic Peninsula. She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars, and her poems have been published or are forthcoming in journals such as Prairie Schooner, Ibbetson, and Spillway.