Lately, I am capable only of small things.

This poem I’ve always loved by Olena Kalytiak Davis (1963-) feels so eerily apt right now.

My desk tonight.


Lately, I am capable only of small things.

Is it enough
to feel the heart swimming?

Jim is fine. Our first
garden is thick with spinach
& white radish. Strangely,
it is summer

but also winter & fall.

In response to your asking:
I fill the hours
then lick them shut.

Today, not a single word, but the birds
quietly nodding
as if someone had suggested
moving on.

What is that perfect thing
some one who once believed in god said?

Please don’t misunderstand:
We still suffer, but we are

Soon I will forget how to preserve you.

It was hard to pick just one poem from Olena Kalytiak Davis’s first collection, And Her Soul Out Of Nothing. Davis (1963-) is a first generation Ukrainian-American who grew up in Detroit and lived all over the world before settling in Alaska. I’m feeling a little inarticulate tonight, so I’ll defer to the poet Rita Dove who wrote, “There is an eerie precision to Davis’s work–like the delicate discernment of a brain surgeon’s scalpel–that renders each moment in both its absolute clarity and ultimate transitory fragility.” Yes.


Morning after morning

The awakening village howls
Like an insect
About to be dipped in amber

I separate myself from the sky

But still carry the inevitable
Dream of your body
Covered in butterflies or in bees.

Here’s a living blanket for your grave.

Here’s who I’ve quietly become:
A slightly wilder version of you. Your hands
Knead the dough for my bread

And my husband’s flesh, thick and smooth.
They wash my breasts and hips, they light
My cigarette, they crack my beer.

You’ve been dead too long.

Morning after morning
The heavy amber of you
Around my neck, inside the heels

Of my boots. I wear your gloves
Your winter scarves, your winter hair,
And that heavy shearling coat.

Soon I will forget how to preserve you.

But for now I continue to dream daily.
Morning after morning: your body blooming
In yellow wings, thousands of butterflies alighting

And you just lie there.

Morning after morning
The orange grass keeps burning
Under the grey grey sky.