Peter Davis

from Band Names & Other Poems

Succeeding in America

It is not as if I can capture the high road simply
by mowing everyone down at the ankles. In fact,
as I try to navigate the crust, I find my desire
to spring forward is held in check my desire
to fall back. It’s like, for each and every Newton
there is an opposite Newton, say, a fig, a Wayne
who is chubby as a tween but a real fucker
on the banjo. Also, as far as showmanship goes,
it’s hard to beat a drum harder than all the
daydreaming eyes at the soda fountain or all
the twinkling cheeks at the record store. For
every black button on a lapel, there is a tiny wish
in my heart. At every hopeful talent show
the number of dance steps is the same number
of steps to my bed. In my bed, where my dreams
are cartoon surfers, I can feel the musing of
the future. I feel the skin that isn’t yours spread
across an ocean that isn’t ours. It’s like the foam
in my throat is a bubbled snake, like the vest
in my chest is a fur grenade.

Songs of Our Forefathers

My son heard a song and he began
to sing when, without any warning,
I began to sing a different song. My daughter
sang a song, too, while my wife was
deciding which song she’d sing. She
decided and began. Now, with all
four songs going, we could finally hear
the real song, the one that was floating
between the songs being sung. That
song had a trumpet part and I used
my eyes to communicate that to my son.
He used his eyes to communicate a feeling
deep inside of himself that he was different
on the inside than how he appeared on the
outside. My daughter communicated
with her eyes. She seemed to whisper,
“Here is a piano solo.” Of course, the real
solo was the one my wife was singing
with her eyes. This eye song had a chorus
and a sadness that lifted from the creases
in her eyelids when she blinked. Now the
song of all our eyes could really be heard.
This song began to seep from my pores
in such a high-pitched manner that only
the dog could hear it. She began wincing
and rubbed her ears on the ground. That
was now the new song and we all heard
it and began using our noses to smell it.
I heard a faint wail in the distance, then
sensed something else, a new song,
rising from the floorboards, spreading
all around the skin of this little family

Small in the Distance

“I have this new world inside of me”
is the idea that sprung to mind and so
I leapt at it, deer-posed, as if over
a wire fence. If it ran very far
over a field of dried brownish stuff
it might grow small in the distance,
off into the horizon slit. If I saddle
some beast and ride further, some pale
happiness might be found in a faraway
forest. But, it’s not meant to be. You
can tell by the robes on the shoulders.
Also, the dress as it folds off her neck
and arms is really beautiful (depending
on your sense of beauty) but it’s not
an opening to another dimension.
Obviously, how new dimensions form
is a matter of some of dispute, but
something more obvious bothers me.
How can I be a better person and how
can this new world grow if the wind
never howls all angular at the trees?
“Careful,” you want to say, but you don’t
say careful. You don’t say anything
because you’re being careful.