I’m watering a grave,

I believe it to belong to one of the rats or a stunned bird.

buckets upon buckets kicked over with dirty boots. a search without rescue.

I used the rainwater this time to coax something through the crust.

the water is murky with run-off from the roof but perhaps

that is the fertilizer this death needs. a diluted mix of chemicals.

hot, pungent.

jalapeño and fermented carrot.

there is no true exhumation, I water and push the mud with my feet,

swirling graceless shapes into the ground with no conviction.

my daily sadistic routine.

 

I’m asked again if I live here. I say, I’m not sure.

 

I’m never sure

 

of what is next, but I know certainly I cannot look anywhere but the sky for any sort of guidance.

not from a god or goddess, not the fucking heavens I have been so repeatedly promised.

this angle, with my blemishes to the pock-marked atmosphere,

is the only one that clears my eyes

and runs the rivers into my ears in a flood of cold and sound.

again, murky but this time with something i cannot place.

clumps of moss, or sweet drips of strawberry ice cream, or pieces of soft, decadent flesh from

the body that the rainwater may never reach.

 

I don’t remember where she is buried.

 

I’ve been looking for the grave

and not finding it, but not coming up empty-handed. in fact,

they are full.

yesterday it was the pulpy hearts of 200 apricots, a spider’s nest, mail for a forgotten someone. return to sender: recipient has moved.

recipient is deceased.

recipient unknown.

today it is a handful of weeds without roots, a ring I thought I had lost, piles of rat shit.

I leave everything in the arc of sandstone that forms a heart, a summoning place.

maybe this time patience will yield life, not a slow starving death.

 

 

I watered a grave, once this morning and once tonight.

hose water this time. pull the twirled green tube to the site and begin at the head

or where I think the head would be.

 

I point the hose skyward

and end up watering myself.

 

 

Addition, 1996

 

In a house with no garage, where does the toolbox go?

Or the bikes or lawnmower?

 

This house has no garage, but

there is a dance studio painted lavender.

 

Look at this room, what do you see?

Tape residue, whispers of footprints,

 

eastern sunlight filtered through pansies,

years of creative frustration compounded,

 

and floor-to-ceiling mirrors, reflecting into infinity

on every wall, replaying in real time every

 

plié, relevé, chassé, again!

 

A perfume of sweat and calloused feet

hovers just above the floor.

 

The girls kick it up like horses

fidgeting in their stalls before a storm.

 

I watch, waiting to take Lily home, and

I can see they no longer speak my language.

 

They know something I don’t,

feel something I can’t. In lieu of translation

 

they give me a dance—imbalanced and free.

Wet roses and lilies rain on the floor.

 

The wood warps and the crack of thunderous

wonder and applause lift them into the sky.

 

 

Lessons

 

Hide in the explosion of firecrackers sizzling on the wet grass, and don’t tell my mother why I

smile at you. She would understand all too well. Yucca blossoms are withering beneath

my feet and heart, which are only bare this time of year, thick with dirt and callous.

I let heavy days disappear behind me without care.

With the right coaxing, I’ll become softer,

but you leave anyway.

 

I'm told not to be impulsive and I buy a bouquet at the supermarket for my kitchen table anyway.

I tell the cashier they're for me and I leave my keys in the front door overnight.

I think of Boston and taking you there after you’ve settled back in.

We talk and I pretend to know what to tell you.

I marry the idea of your life,

 

and summer ends.

I run away from the echoes of explosions only to leave you behind.

 

 

***

 

Start here this time.

 

Everything glows orange under dark city lights. I sing the ugly disjointed high notes into the stars and wait for a response. Write letters to the moon, drink the water from the well,

shovel the snow from the driveway.

 

It begins again, faster than before.

 

Light travels alongside sound in perfect unity, and before I can catch myself, my tender wrists

hit concrete. Gravel heals under skin. Constellation in the palm of my hand,

I'm trying to take back the first I love you every time we speak,

but each attempt is thwarted by a better,

different I love you.

 

Words don’t do justice to this. I mean it like it is, how it sounds, hollow or shallow or said before, but it feels real in a way I can’t sing of in any other pitch. I will tell my mother

when spring comes, after foreign tulips bloom in hard soil

and the birds come back with stories from the south.

When yuccas stand full in the backyard again,

and the snow has returned to the ground.

 

 

There’s A Cloud Made Of Earth On The Horizon

 

Something happened and the land gave up on us,

those who loved and lived for it became microbes on the bones

of a beast long dead, scrounging and flaking off like

dust.

 

Only Heaven knows when the disease started to grow, or

to take away, eating more than I have in days.

Years mean nothing in this world. I measure the time in crumbs and emptiness,

in sickness, in spoonfuls of health, in shovels full of dirt

thrown lazily past my calves.

I feel dry, worn, bent, and unmoving. My hands, eternal claws, could not hold

a bottle for my son, even if I had a bottle to spare. His belly feels full, but it can’t be.

My woman caresses his dark skull, croaking lullabies—

my displaced choral bullfrog,

I am sorry I promised you gold

and gave you sand instead.

I run dirty nails through my thinning hair and disappear beneath

a hat, like every wandering worker bee living

out of a cardboard hive and trunk.

I cannot unbutton my shirt for fear of everything falling

out in a chalky mass onto the bare floor.

 

My woman’s watching eyes are nothing, no longer sun and morning dew.

They are closed doors and vacant wells.

I have tried to bring her back with supplication, knelt in the thick scales

of cracked earth, cried out in song and whisper,

wept at the foot of the stars and begged for something

that seems impossible. I begged for a tree, just one to grow.

Shade, refuge, fruit maybe.

Green.

I beg for green.

 

Our daughter peers in and out of our home,

hide-and-seek in the wasteland of Kansas. She dances with dust devils

and calls them her friends. I weep into the soil for her with no reward—

water into salt, salt into dust, dust into heavy cloud.

We see it loom,

and wait.

charnel house, 2017

 
 
 

Haley Davis

Haley Davis is a Northern Arizona University graduate, poet, and plant-lover from Sedona, Arizona. If she isn’t writing, she’s spending quality time with her partner and their cats. Her work appears in Issues 3 and 4 of The Tunnels.
 
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