Jon Davis

Ed Grimley Accepts a Poetry Prize

“All thanks to the Creator, I must say, but without
my assistance, frankly, nothing gets done,
though nothing is, in its way, laudable, if lauds we are
indeed speaking of and, judging by the scarves
and thin cravats, the bright lights blinding even
the blindest among us, the trophies and medals,
and the lovely young women whose job it is
to deliver said trophies like swaddled infants
to the winners, lauds we most certainly are.
Speaking of, that is. I must say. So if I tap
my heart twice and point skyward, if I perform
a frivolous dance while waving a cane behind
the mahogany podium, that is because my work,
with the creator’s support, though I must say that ‘support’
consisted largely of Them clapping and barking,
saying go for it, son, and go for it, I did, I must say,
with my now-famous and very decent poems
about summerlust and bear grease and a woman
named Janean, all viewed through the lens
of postcolonial theory and that brilliant, I must say,
crown of sonnets, the gist of which escapes me though
I’m certain those sonnets were spoken alternately
by a chihuahua and the ghost of Spiro Agnew,
a kind of conversation among equals, if you will.
And don’t forget my entirely sufferable experimental
sequence, “In the Silence Left by John Cage’s Passing,”
an unprecedented accomplishment, in which
I interrogate silence and silence answers in that frail
voice which isn’t even a voice, I must say. And now
with this prize I must leave you behind to complicate
the pantheon of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson
and William Butler Yeats—that’s such an austere
moniker! May I call you Bill? What? Yes? Why thank you
Bill Yeats!—and Sylvia Plath. Poor Sylvia.
Oh, but you did write some very decent poems
before the thing with the oven, I must say.
In conclusion, I have no mentors, no collaborators,
no peers I wish, at this point, to thank. I have
no cause that would benefit, so to speak, from my public
and slightly tipsy advocacy. I thank, therefore,
the Academy for their incomprehensible foolishness,
and God, of course, for not intervening
when an intervention was clearly called for.”


Memory During a Pandemic

I wanted to be light and easeful as my memory
of the ice cream man, ringing bells,
handing out dreamsicles and toasted almond bars,
and from the silver change machine on his belt,
clicking nickels into the fleshy hand
missing the two fingers that he laughed about,
wiggling the stumps at us, and when he smiled
we could see—right up front—the gap
where he’d lost a tooth and just then
a huge swan rose up in the town pond
and battered another swan with its wings and bit
at the other’s nape in front of the children
who shrieked and hurried to grab onto
their mothers’ legs, and the memory
took a traumatic turn—the adults whispering
that the ice cream man had, apparently, been
beaten by his brute father and was selling ice cream
to sublimate his terror, and suddenly we were all
huddling in a circle because it was snowing
and a bitter wind was biting at our necks
and piling snow at the foot of the monument
to some heroic hyperalert men
with triangular hats and flintlocks
which was not my intention, not my intention at all.


Jon Davis is the author of six chapbooks and seven full-length poetry collections, including Above the Bejeweled City (Grid Books, 2021) and Choose Your Own America (FLP, 2022). Davis also co-translated Iraqi poet Naseer Hassan’s Dayplaces (Tebot Bach, 2017). He has received a Lannan Literary Award, the Lavan Prize, and two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. Poems appear in recent issues of Porcupine Literary, Taos Journal of Poetry & Art, Pine Hills Review, Tampa Review, and in the anthologies A House Called Tomorrow: Fifty Years of Poetry (Copper Canyon, 2023), and The Last Milkweed (Tupelo Press, 2023).