Letter to Dave from the Karen Noonan Center on the Chesapeake Bay

The last two days out on the bay I observe
the tundra swans leaving the flat horizon
of this water, arcing over tidal pools
and the inescapable prairies of marsh grass.
You are on your mountain to the north, closer
to their calls as they wing their way away
from this estuary that saves them each winter.
After so many months of shifting land, of rising
and falling tides, their heavy bodies must ache
for a release, a reprieve to our comings and goings,
whether by boat or air or, oddest of all, by car,
which looks nothing like the way these birds travel.
It’s the unyielding tundra where they will give
themselves over to their own desires. I suppose
most of us need the solid earth beneath our feet
as we choose a mate. The undulating waters
of our hearts make it hard enough to remember
which flyway to follow, let alone how to spend
those transitory days in the half-light of summer
brooding over what we’ve made between us.

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.

7 Comments


  1. I love this series. I want it in a little book that can follow me from room to room.

    You two are a good pair. Keeping your voices separate, yet harmonious.

    Reply

  2. Todd and Dave…this exchange is unlike anything I’ve seen. I’ve enjoyed going back and looking at past posts very much recently and noticing differences in voice, form, tone. What’s biggest for me, though, is the relationship I see between the landscapes and natural worlds of your respective poems. How they seem to stand apart yet inform and respond to each other. I keep wanting to revisit Barry Lopez’s Home Ground. I’d love more.
    Todd, I would faithfully read your hypothetical blog, and I feel sure many others would, too.

    Reply

  3. Love it. (Still hearing Dave’s recording of the tundra swans.) I do love the letters back and forth, and wondered why Todd didn’t get his own blog! (No need to feed it daily as Dave does, btw.)

    Reply

  4. Deb, Laura, Leslee,

    You are too kind. I’m so grateful when something I write connects with others. Dave, of course, is a wonderful poet, and what a joy to send epistles back and forth. I think of all poetry as a conversation, poem speaking to poem, regardless of the time or place in which the poem is written. But how much more enriching to know the poet and the place he speaks from.

    Maybe this series will make it into book-form someday!

    As for blogging, I still don’t have a cell phone or internet at home. I have, however, as of yesterday, entered part of the 21st century. Our webdesigner at Penn State made me a webpage for my poetry. Here’s the link:
    http://www.personal.psu.edu/tfd3/.

    And here’s to spring and all the migrations we’ll make in the coming months.

    Reply

    1. Hey, Todd, that’s great! Generous sample of poems you’ve posted there, too. I’ll replace the link to your publisher’s page with this one, and I hope folks will check it out.

      You know I’m available for free consulting if you ever decide to start a blog. The best approach would probably be to start out with something really small, an appendage of your new website, for posting news about your writing and scholarship — upcoming readings and the like. And many writers never go much beyond that. Of course, if you ever relent on having an internet connection at home, we can simply train Noah to do the upkeep for you. Up his allowance to fifty cents a week or something. That’s all I got when I was his age.

      By the way, for what it’s worth, page views were through the roof today, so this poem likely got several hundred more readers than the comments suggest. I think a lot of people like to read blogs on Friday afternoons and evenings as they wind down from the work week.

      Reply

  5. I’m enjoying this series too and am always glad to see another post.

    Reply

  6. I’m also really lovin’
    the exchange

    and I can attest to the love of blog writing
    when I am not myself
    bogging down in
    word sloth

    Reply

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