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

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Todd Davis (webpage) teaches creative writing, environmental studies, and American literature at Penn State University’s Altoona College. He is the author of three books of poetry – The Least of These (Michigan State University Press, 2010), Some Heaven (Michigan State University Press, 2007) and Ripe (Bottom Dog Press, 2002) – one chapbook, Household of Water, Moon, and Snow: The Thoreau Poems (Seven Kitchens Press, 2010), and co-editor of the anthology, Making Poems: 40 Poems with Commentary by the Poets (State University of New York Press, 2010). His poems have been featured on the radio by Garrison Keillor on “The Writer’s Almanac” and by Marion Roach on “The Naturalist’s Datebook,” as well as by Ted Kooser in his syndicated newspaper column “American Life in Poetry.” In addition to his creative work, Davis is the author or editor of six scholarly books, including Kurt Vonnegut’s Crusade, or How a Postmodern Harlequin Preached a New Kind of Humanism (State University of New York Press, 2006) and Mapping the Ethical Turn: A Reader in Ethics, Culture, and Literary Theory (University Press of Virginia, 2001). His latest book is an edited collection of creative nonfiction by poets writing about basketball.


  1. 1. I too often forget the slumbers of the animals, especially my FAVORITE animal, the bee. You reminded me of this oversight.

    2. Anything with a predator in it (the hawk) is good.

    3. I was left with an urge to extend “…beautiful deaths of usefulness: one life to feed another…” into my own metaphor for something in human behavior. But I failed. I have a bit of a Bible verse stuck in my head and perhaps the animalistic Hawk and the high-moral-plane Jesus are at loggerheads in my brain. Verse:


  2. That’s really lovely. Resonant with the melancholy of the season.


  3. Evan,

    So glad my poem offered a spark for your thinking. I’m interested in the tangent toward the Bible verse you mentioned.


    Thanks for the kind words. Any time a poem resonates it’s a good thing!




  4. These are wonderful lines: “…the sweet tenacity of the bee,/ the waxen comb of delight.” Thank you.


    1. Thanks, Luisa. This poem has gone through a few more revisions since I sent it to Dave back in 2008. It’s part of a chapbook I just published with Seven Kitchens Press called HOUSEHOLD OF WATER, MOON, AND SNOW: THE THOREAU POEMS. I’m sure it will also become part of my fourth full-length collection that is tenatively called IN THE KINGDOM OF THE DITCH. Here’s to your wonderful poems!


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