Todd Davis


A friend’s son has a head of bird song, of bird calls
full of hunger and the primal joy that wells into a cry
at the back of the throat. If you wonder, no, this isn’t
metaphor. Even his mother can tell you
where a green throated warbler hides in the leaves,
or how the great crested flycatcher roosts in an oak.
What she knows she learned in a classroom while he
glided from her womb with lips pursed. A life list
is something that follows you no matter where you perch,
and the number of birds that flock behind him
could block out the sun. He studies flyways, suffers
fall and spring migrations, scowls at his useless arms
in frustration. Once in September, hiking an abandoned
logging road in a narrow ravine, he held up his hand,
quieted us so we might hear the Kentucky warbler
passing over head. All we heard was the sound
of the stream below, until he moved his fingers,
as if stitching a song in the air, tracing the beats
with each lilting note, wedding us to earth
as the bird winged south.

Todd Davis

is a fellow in the Black Earth Institute and teaches environmental studies at Penn State University's Altoona College. He is the author of five books of poems, most recently Winterkill and In the Kingdom of the Ditch, both published by Michigan State University Press. He is the editor of Fast Break to Line Break: Poets on the Art of Basketball (MSU Press, 2012) and Making Poems: Forty Poems with Commentary by the Poets (SUNY Press, 2010).  His poems have won the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, the Chautauqua Editors Prize, and the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Bronze Award and have been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize. New poems are forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Gettysburg Review, Artful Dodge, Louisville Review, and Poet Lore.