Botticelli's Birth of Venus
Botticelli's Birth of Venus

The sea beneath your minimal spacecraft turns adamant, grows scales like a lizard. A superhero saves you from a swarm of devious roses, cape flapping melodramatically, his last client still clinging to his side. A green-skinned native emerges from the shelter of the trees, offering to wrap you in the flag of her country. This is clearly a very dangerous planet for a would-be goddess. Everyone wants to enlist you in their battles, & I have a suspicion they won’t take love for an answer.

My response to the Venus Poetry Project, an experiment in anonymous, open-content poetry composition. (Thanks to Dana for the link.) Since I posted this three days ago, someone has already reworked it, with interesting results:

The sea
beneath your minimal
spacecraft turns adamant, grows
scales like a lizard. A superhero
saves you
from a swarm of devious roses,
cape flapping melodramatically,
his last lost cause
still clinging to his side.
A green-skinned native emerges
from the shelter of trees, offering
to wrap you in the flag
of her country. Dangerous planet
for a would-be goddess. Everyone wants
to enlist you in their battles.
I suspect they won’t take love
for an answer.

(To make your own changes to the poem, go here.)


For a day and a half, due no doubt to the rain and snow squalls, high-speed internet access here on the mountain varied from brief and intermittent to non-existent. I was forced to resort to dial-up, where it can take half an hour to complete the simplest task. No chance then of my attention leaping from site to site; I became as slow and single-minded as an autumn cricket.

When I step outside, mid-afternoon,
my quilted shirt turns white
with sudden pixels.
I blink like a cursor.
All the dried goldenrod heads
are blossoming into a second, ghostly life.

The oak goddess

goddess tree 1

The Goddess has many manifestations, and some of them are arboreal.

goddess tree 2

Thus, at any rate, the eco-feminist take. I lean more toward animism, myself. So let me rephrase that:

goddess tree with officiant

The Oak has many manifestations, and some of them are theomorphic. And clearly very sexy, at least to a relationship-challenged hermit.

The difference is not merely semantic. I’d personally feel much more comfortable making demands of a generalized, invisible deity with potentially unlimited powers. Petitionary prayer becomes more than a bit awkward when one is face-to-face with a living being who clearly has very different priorities from one’s own.

Of course, there are plenty of regular religious folks — the kind who didn’t make it into Bill Maher’s recent film — who limit their prayers to giving thanks and asking for greater closeness with the deity, and/or greater conformity with the deity’s ways. And that’s always kind of been my style too. So I beseeched the oak goddess for acorns.

“Well, Dave,” you’re probably thinking, “that was pretty droll of you.” But it was in fact a sincere and urgent request. As sometimes happens, a late, cold spring played hob with oak pollination here, and the acorn crop seems to have failed. The deer are almost all down in the valleys gleaning corn, but many other, less mobile wildlife species are probably going hungry. I don’t actually believe in miracles, because I don’t think we should encourage lawlessness in our deities — once they get a taste for making the sun stand still or water spring from the rock, pretty soon they’re running amok and smiting people like there’s no tomorrow.

So no miracles, please. Let the natural order prevail. But if some sort of alternate nutrient were to materialize, manna-like, who’s to say my intervention with the oak goddess didn’t have something to do with it?

I’m accepting submissions for the Nov. 1 edition of the Festival of the Trees blog carnival through Friday. Details here.


autumn chairs

Two garden seats, side by side:
one is full of leaves & the other, twigs.
It looks like an amicable division.
A spam comment touts Extraordinarily naked people.
I hear a train whistle & remember
the beast that stalked me in all
my childhood dreams.

Up in the attic, a freshly shed snake skin
is stretched across the pink fiberglass.
Such separations must be wrenching, however necessary.
A bluebottle fly clings to the top
of an empty water jug, immobile
from the cold. It’s a bad time of year
not to be warm-blooded.

I eventually figured out that I was simply
in the train’s way, & if I laid down
& flattened myself against the ties
it would thunder harmlessly overhead.
Perhaps those nudists too have mastered
the art of getting out of the way,
& their bodies are not merely unclothed
but transparent, so that you can see the food
dissolving in their stomachs & ideas growing
in the reptilian coils of their brains.
There are protocols for everything, even in the garden.
The wind is a very particular host.


poppy light
some lights at a friend’s house

Halfway up the hollow, a dim row of lights below the road: the foxfire log. Starlight gleams in a pool beyond. Here and there, the high-pitched, whispery chittering of flying squirrels. When I reach the houses, I hear a familiar double chirp slowed to a fraction of its normal speed, like an old 78 played at 33 RPM. A lone katydid survives out of that whole, once-thunderous late-summer chorus. Kay… tee… Somehow it’s weathered a week and a half of freezing temperatures, and still finds the strength to call at 47°F. Kay… The nightlight glows through my kitchen window, faint as foxfire. Tee… I don’t think anyone is going to help it complete the phrase, not any longer. I hurry indoors, snap on a light, and log onto my email.

Begins with B

I’m lying half-awake, thinking for some reason about the letter D. Does the bulge face right or left? Since it’s the first letter of my own name, you’d think I could remember, but after weighing both options, my sleep-fogged brain decides that a left-facing D looks much more natural. Facing right is what Bs do… right?


In video after video I see faces tense with hatred, spitting all the insults that polite society still permits: Socialist. Communist. Terrorist. Muslim. A man going into a rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania holds up a monkey doll with an Obama sticker wrapped around its head like a minimal turban. It’s Curious George — a strange mascot for those whose native openness to new and different things was stifled, I imagine, decades before. “Gonna bring Obama in with me today so he can hear some TRUTH,” says the man, his swagger, his accent, and the slightly adenoidal quality of his speech familiar to me since childhood.


Big bulge, little bulge. We belly up the bar in real America. What’s on tap? Bud, Bud Light, Miller, Michelob. Is that a can of Guinness down there? I ask. I’ll have that. Conversation falls silent. What’s that taste like, anyway? asks the female bartender, seeing what the men don’t: that I’m perfectly harmless. Well, I don’t know — it tastes like beer, I say, tilting the glass to slow the foaming black waterfall. The way beer was meant to taste, before someone decided it would be cheaper to sell flavored water. Someone says something in a low voice at the end of the bar which provokes a chorus of guffaws. Bitter, I say, as I swagger over to a stool at the other end of the bar. Smooth and bitter.


The American people are angry, the candidate says hopefully. And in truth, his opponent’s unflappable demeanor is really beginning to annoy him. The familiar knot forms in his belly and begins to burn. He rolls his eyes and grimaces. People are angry, he says again, his voice trembling with conviction. Well, that’s certainly true of the people he’s been meeting lately, those idiots from small towns who love their guns way too much and pray to a God who looks like an older version of themselves — a Great White Father. His opponent continues to spout his idealistic claptrap in calm, methodical tones. He blinks furiously. The American people are angry, yes, but don’t call them bitter. Bitterness is for losers, for people who have no way to strike back.


The campaign worker travels all the way from Texas to volunteer in Western Pennsylvania, where people share her outrage at abortion and the homosexual agenda. Somewhere in downtown Pittsburgh, let’s say, a couple of black teenagers spot the McCain/Palin bumper sticker and begin to point and laugh and make rude comments. Her windows are rolled up and her doors are locked, but she’s pretty sure she hears the word Bitch. At the next light she pulls down the sun visor, flips open the mirror, and can barely recognize her face, pinched, livid. Why are black men always so… angry? She pulls into a parking spot beside an all-night automatic teller. Must… sleep… soon… she thinks. She watches in horrified fascination as the point of a fingernail file approaches her cheek.

Tar Nation

poetry postcard

It’s worse than you think. “The witches, warlocks and those involved in satanism and the occult get up daily at 3 a.m. to release curses against McCain and Palin so B. Hussein Obama is elected.” Getting up at 3 a.m.? That does sound hellacious. “Obama’s grandmother sacrificed a black and a white chicken to the ‘goddess of the river’ so both whites and blacks will vote for Obama. All Islam loves and worships Obama.” Muslims praying to the Goddess? These are witches with a devilish sense of humor! “Dick Morris of Fox News was sent to Kenya to help Odinga run his campaign! I find that unbelievable.” You and me both, Sister. It’s almost as if they’re no longer fair and balanced. A sign of the endtimes, for sure.

The occultists are “weaving lazy 8’s around McCain’s mind to make him look confused and like an idiot”. Bree K. said we need to break these curses off of him that are being sent from Kenya.

I read a portion of “Obama Nation” book and looked at several websites and found most of this information to be true, all except the curses part, of course….

Um, not to be rude, but I think those damnable occultists might be weaving a far wider web of confusion than you realize.

poetry postcard

Don’t forget to visit Postal Poetry. We’re publishing on a twice-a-week schedule now, but could increase it to three again if we get more submissions. We’ve chosen six winners from among the entries for our first contest, and will post the first of them on Friday. We’ve just kicked off a second contest. But we also still welcome any other submissions that fit our guidelines. Don’t let the demons win! Make a poetry postcard for Jesus!

Second Nature

This entry is part 3 of 15 in the series Ridge and Valley: an exchange of poems


Dear Dave,

Sun slowly burns away the gray tissue
of morning, and bees, who have spent the night
beneath the long flower of goldenrod, sway
with the stalk, stiff from cold and fog. Yesterday

a red-tailed hawk lifted from a tamarack to take
a small rabbit at the edge of the field. On this walk
I find owl pellets near a downed oak, as well as
the torn limb of a warbler, the discarded head

of a shrew. These are the beautiful deaths
of usefulness: one life to feed another, consumed
by the belly’s furnace, only to wake to heavy wing-
beat as it passes over the tallest spruce.

The best we can hope for is to scatter ourselves
across the darkest parts of the earth, rain relinquishing
these late flowers and our passing love, which mostly
lusted after the self, too often forgetting the sweet

tenacity of the bee, the waxen comb of delight.

Todd Davis


A ladybug circumnavigates the rim of a glass house for dead insects — longhorns, scarabs, a stag beetle, a rhinoceros beetle, each at least as big as a finger, if not a fat thumb, & shiny as gemstones. The ladybug is a small red capsule: potent medicine. Her dogged way of walking suggests a certain brittleness, a gift for sudden, unprovoked rage. She goes around the case once, twice, then doubles back and tries it counter-clockwise. The wooden rim is wide enough for two ladybugs to pass each other without touching, as sometimes happens, though not this particular afternoon. She’s alone. Outside, it’s October in all the colors of her tribe. She raises her elytra & lifts off on wings veined like translucent leaves, which carry her up the ceiling as if trying to fly back to their crystal tree.