Bend back the bark of the world,
which is its skin, which is the way
we learn how veins carry blood
away from the heart, then back
into its echoing chambers. I’m tired
of hearing about the kind of men
who would kill me, the news of bombs
going off in endless loops on late-night TV.
In the forest above our house a fisher
stalks porcupines, and every so often
I find their torn bodies, once even
a corpse in the crotch of a white oak.
Its animal face lay open, empty and red
where the fisher’s teeth had bitten down
to avoid the quills and to keep
the belly meat untouched. In nature
there is waste that good grows out of,
an abundance we are called to use.
In spring when we coax the bees
toward a new hive, Alverdia fetches
her wooden spoon and metal washbasin,
stands beneath the shad and pawpaw trees
whose blossoms the bees cover,
whose limbs sprout ten thousand wings,
and there she drums the basin
and hums a song she’s made
for herself and for this swarm
that will follow her anywhere.
This isn’t the news of the world
most of us live in. Two streams
meet in the floodplain where wet fires
of rot lap against fallen hemlocks.
Five seedlings have sprung up
along one of the logs, nursing decay
like piglets down a sow’s length, or like
an infant in a desert village suckling
a mother’s breast, oblivious to the murmur
of planes crossing overhead.
“Nurse Log” was first published by Ecotone and later in the collection In the Kingdom of the Ditch (Michigan State University Press, 2013).
Todd Davis is the author of four full-length collections of poetry—In the Kingdom of the Ditch, The Least of These, Some Heaven, and Ripe—as well as of a limited edition chapbook, Household of Water, Moon, and Snow: The Thoreau Poems. He edited the nonfiction collection, Fast Break to Line Break: Poets on the Art of Basketball, and co-edited Making Poems: Forty Poems with Commentary by the Poets. His poetry has been featured on the radio by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac and by Ted Kooser in his syndicated newspaper column American Life in Poetry. His poems have won the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, the Chautauqua Editors Prize, and have been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize, appearing in such noted journals and magazines as American Poetry Review, Iowa Review, Ecotone, Poet Lore, North American Review, Indiana Review, Gettysburg Review, Shenandoah, Image, Orion, West Branch, River Styx, Notre Dame Review, Poetry Daily, Quarterly West, Green Mountains Review, Sou’wester, Verse Daily, and Poetry East. He teaches environmental studies, creative writing, and American literature at Pennsylvania State University’s Altoona College. Visit http://www.todddavispoet.com for more.