Self Portraits Coram Deo: The Poetry of Brad Davis (A Conference Breakout Preview)

Mockingbird’s 5th annual New York City Conference is a week away and we are honored […]

Ethan Richardson / 4.12.12

Mockingbird’s 5th annual New York City Conference is a week away and we are honored to present, during Session C of Friday’s breakout sessions, the poet Brad Davis, who will be reading from his new collection of poems, Self Portrait w/ Disposable Camera (as well as his inspired Opening King David collection, which we’ve highlighted on here before). An accomplished poet, Davis’ poems in this new collection have been published in such journals as the Paris Review, Image, Poetry, and the Michigan Quarterly Review. Davis has an indelible fixation on the confessional moments of Coram Deo, the presence of God amidst the concrete and personal. His poems conjure a life we know, a God-hunger we know, a mystery we often do not pay attention to. Using images from Saturday cartoons, kitchen tables, hospitals, and the Holy Bible, Davis shows us a world we know illumined by the love and grandeur of God.

A couple of favorites from his newest book:

Washing Dishes After the Feast

It frightens me to think, she said, interrupting
my holiday banter. Imagining the phrase
as antecedent to a rare gift of honest exchange
between grownup siblings, I dashed
into the split-second of dead air, anticipating silently
her elaboration–what a mess we’ve made of things
for our kids; how many parents of starving
children must hate us for our amazing prosperity
and self-indulgence.

But I had misread
her punctuation, took the period as a pause, and all
at once found myself, like that coyote
we used to pull for on Saturday mornings, utterly
without purchase, eyeballing an abyss.
Which is when, glancing across the divide
of the double sink at her busy hands, I saw her
as though she were curled in a ball on the lip
of a cliff, knees tight to her chest, face buried
in the cotton folds of a holly-green dress.
It’s okay, I wanted to tell her. It scares me, too.
But I was already plummeting, tumbling in free-fall
to a sunbaked canyon floor, the crazy cur
in her endless cartoon of an unreliable universe.

Common as Air

When Mrs. Weiss told us in earth science–
a light, limb-filtered breeze blessing us
through the room’s west wall windows–
that somewhere camouflaged within
our every lungful of air marches air

Hitler breathed and Khrushchev and
Richard Speck, I began breathing less–
shorter intakes, pauses after each exhale–
willing to endure panicky bursts of craving
in exchange for reducing the likelihood

of those radioactive atoms passing
from lung to blood to brain. If she included
mention of the Buddha or Madame Curie,
I do not remember it. Terror is air borne.
And though I have been slow to receive,

so are wisdom and beauty, the breath
of canticle and rain forest, and in such
measure as dwarfs the one or two
dark, burrowing parts per million of all
that is our phenomenal inheritance. How

I wish now a teacher had told us that this
is the reason, when we hyperventilate,
we get so dizzy–so much goodness
flooding our little brains it very nearly
bowls us over, tips us toward our knees.