Atrial Fibrillation

This entry is part 6 of 15 in the series Ridge and Valley: an exchange of poems


Dear Dave,

Yesterday was the dull gray of a river stone.
This morning snow covers our neighbor’s roof,
sky the color of an indigo bunting’s cap.
Fresh from sleep we reach back for summer’s green,
fecund and ridiculous. At our feeder a blue jay
cracks open a seed to warm itself on the fire burning
in the hull. To the west fields are bare and my mother
wears a heart monitor. She rises slowly from bed
to bathe, hope against hope that her heart won’t flutter
like the wings of a sparrow, the furious beating
of a finch as it tries to bring the body into balance,
an agreement with the wind, the rhythm
of the blessedly invisible air.

Todd Davis


mixed-species flock of winter birds in raspberry canes


Series Navigation← November SabbathWhat I Wanted to Tell the Nurse When She Pricked My Thumb →
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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. Gorgeous. I love the fire burning in the hull, and those last lines…!


  2. The last two lines are beautiful, Todd. I hope all goes okay.


  3. Thanks for the kind words. I’m always amazed by Dave’s good will to post a poem of mine and the kindness of those who visit his blog.

    This poem does come out of the present and out of the “real” life I live and my mother lives.

    The good news is that my mom had a heart cath yesterday, and the doctors found a healthy heart with no blockage.

    In addition, she hasn’t had any racing/fluttering episodes with her heart for two weeks. So we’ll wait and see what the doctor wishes to do with the A-fib.




  4. Todd, that’s terrific news! You must be relieved.

    I’m grateful that you’re willing to keep exchanging poems like this and share the results with Via Negativa’s readers. I mean, it would be even more awesome if you had your own blog and we could link back and forth, but I know what a Luddite you are. And besides, I enjoy getting a day off once in a while. :)


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