archives winter 2008



At the Boundary of Desire

Count to ten,
                     Once I saw a woman spray-painted white.
roll the ball with each beat.
                     White panties, two white fig leaves—
Miss a step
                     and it’s back to the beginning.
One, two . . .
                     ceramic—over her breasts.
Good job, I tell her.
                     Closing her eyes,
Good job, she says again and again.
                     she posed as a statue in the square.   
                     she even looks at me.
But if I reach to touch her . . .
                     Crowds passed by.
she’s gone, lost
                     They dropped money
in an autistic spin,
                     in her cardboard box.
arms planed, eyes turned inward.
                     She centrifuges me out of her world.     
If you touched her
                     marble finish,
the surface would give like overripe fruit,
                     paint would flake.
So I never touch her,
                     No one ever touched her,
sweet apple dangling still.


In the Victorian Language of the Fan

Milky galaxies pulled apart, broken
stars, patchy ground glass, the dark mysteries

of my asymptomatic lungs
have been unveiled on screen. I held, going

through the donut hole, my breath, the rapid
whip around of tiny cameras, whir,

whiz, snapping every angle to reveal
Lady Windermere’s Disease. How lovely—

flutter, blush—a name I could drop over
tea and crumpets graciously, that would not

stop traffic, the raw inflammatory
processes from fastidious,

habitual, suppression of the cough,
painless penetration. Take a deep breath,

hold, breathe, surrender. Test after test,
the ravages of age. We are fading

you and I, all except for our eyes. Legs
intertwined, sheets starched, the insistence on

hospital corners, bronchiec [stasis]—
can you feel, how my body, man-of-pause,

has turned against me, my mother hiding
behind the curtains? Why does medicine

have to be so dry? A minute ago
we were talking about children, trick or

treat, Halloween, the blonde, brunette, redhead
slipping from our descriptions, the white hand-

kerchief falling. Folding the fan’s lace, mesh,
wooden ribs—slowly, your hands unfasten

me, the harsh afternoon light. And there is
always that moment after when we are

both catching our breath, as if we had been
swimming a long, long time underwater.


Keeping Thomas Company

It isn’t just the words, “girl, really”
that suggest what he wants
me to see, but the cocky
tilt of his head, the quick glance back

at my face before he shapes
the horse’s shoe again, leaving
her for a moment, suspended—long
black hair, endless legs, skimpy halter top—

poised, in his description, on the swing
hung for his ex-wife. He seems thinner
than I remember, gray curls a little
further down his neck. I try to change

the subject, but no,
we’re on to a conversation they had
at three a.m. It’s not that I can’t imagine
them together, having watched

how his hand slides
the thoroughbred’s leg, voice
low and sweet, coaxing a give
at the knee. I stare

at the fine lines
on the backs of my hands. Squirm,
think I don’t fucking need this,
while he struts

a too-practiced “Yeah, baby!” Stripped
of the ace bandages and back brace; arthritis
meds, glucosamine and MSM hidden
in a drawer, he must almost feel

sixteen when he’s with her. But here
and now, he’s measuring differences.
The shoe’s giving him problems,
and I’m no help at all.


One of the Slow Cats

I lean down, offer a hand quickly met by a wave
of nose, spine, tail. Some Siamese in the pointy face.
“Bojangles” on a frayed blue collar.
One of the slow cats. Holes in the road
patched by this morning’s rainwater, he hesitates
at the edge, crouched beneath a tangle
of jasmine and live oak. Barely visible through the green,
the weathered brown of a frame house.
I’ve never seen the owner, just the handmade
“Slow Cat Crossing” sign. You would laugh,
if you were here, all the ways it could be
read. That last summer, freckled, legs
propped on the deck railing, scotch
in hand, you babbled on about your mother,
shopping, the weather, children. Cancer was in all four
quadrants, the doctors said later, epithelial ovarian tumors
growing, dividing, wandering. A car
is coming, the cat trotting off across the road
so goddamn cocksure.  


Kathy Davis is a freelance writer and editor in Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of the chapbook Holding for the Farrier (Finishing Line Press 2007), and her work has appeared in Blackbird, The Louisville Review, North American Review, and other journals.