Emergency

John Paul Davis

                                             

Late at night the sirens red
our street. At the other end
of their speed
someone needs a doctor
or something’s on fire


but here the city
goes back to mimicking the sea
in the way it too is shushing the world


You like to say I have a siren demon
because every time I step
outside some strobing vehicle
comes baying toward me splashing
its fractures of sound & light


You also say I have a train angel
because the subway
almost always trundles
into the station when I reach
the smudged platform


but the truth is I spent a year
as an ambulance
I spoke only in dopplered vowels
& strode through intersections
regal, nodding to Mercury
dolled up in panic colors


nocturnal & caffeinated
I came noisy & bright to the wounded
& took them into myself
I slept all day ignoring phone calls
& my own body's hungers, comforts


until I was unrecognizable. My friends
missed me. The police chief
took my buddy Eric aside
said "you know John Davis,
right? Tell him get out
while he still can" so I stripped


naked, left my wheels & lights
in a parking lot, skipped town.
It was in Chicago I learned
the language of trains,


leaning against the cars
early in the morning, caressing
the inner chassis & the key-scraped
plastic windows, asking each car
its life story which they all ache
to tell because no one has taught
them poetry. I listened & applauded


& soon was dreaming of tunnels & careening
over electrified rails, being filled
with commuters & feeling utterly
alone at 3AM with only the drunk
& homeless as passengers


trains love the city like blood
loves the body's miles of arteries
I can still whisper
like a sad train
& each one rushes to sing
me the story of its century


just like the ambulances follow
me, eager hounds yowling joy
at finding me, their long-lost
blood brother.

Stain

John Paul Davis

                                                            

Sometimes no amount of washing
or chemicals will dissolve the archipelagos
your body writes on the bedsheets
in response to the moon.
Then the sheets say two
things, what the machine
that printed the vector graphics of plantlife
wrote & your body’s monthly statement
its irregular lines & shapes
blossomed over & blotting
the crisp borders & uniform
hue of the factory-printed flowers.
One is the story of plans
made & kept, measurements
& precision, marketing & target
markets. The other a folk tale in verse,
fable of a metamorphosis
the changeable & changing human
body with its tides & phases
its surprises & cycles.
You’re embarrassed
by these tiny countries
as if anyone but you & I
will ever see them
& I love them like I love your body
in all the ways it differs
from mine in its work & framework
not just because I would
not exist without the labor
of women but also because I love your existence
apart from me, the colors
your voice takes when you’re sleepy,
the pattern of your footsteps,
your anxieties & joys,
opinions & sorrows. You have entered
my life & made it a surprising thing
by being alive & yourself & near me,
from now on, hallelujah,
many things will not
go according to plan.

 

Smartphone

John Paul Davis

                                                           

There is a bald
area on my upper leg
right around where the device
comes to rest in my pocket
sometimes the skin
there buzzes despite
the phone being elsewhere
when this occurs
I go find it & see someone
has called me just moments
ago but it cannot be the case,
can it, that my body is tethered
to the smartphone
which is reshaping
it & training it to be a different
body altogether like how my pulse
goes to high tide
when I hear chimes
of a certain frequency
or how my eyes itch nights
I've spent all day wiping
my fingerprint across a rectangle
of light & how I was sexier
when I wasn't taking photos
of myself for this or that network
or how I can see what people
say inside one app
or another & my throat
& chest do the clenched
slow dance of sadness
& I must then sleep
anyway this means I have multiple
bodies, the happy, beautiful
one in lovely clothes
my software friends can see online,
the overweight, anxious, unhealthy
one I remember when I look at photos
of the bodies of men who are paid
to be photographed in particular clothes
under exact lighting,
the successful one my nephew
sees when he clicks on my name
from his grandmother's house,
the apostate one the Christians
I went to high school with avoid
when they're choosing whose words
to read, & countless others I'm certain
indeed I have infinite bodies
new ones emerging into being
from conversations & juxtapositions
& jealousies & hope
in one way, because we cannot know
without dying if heaven
exists it both does & does not
in a sense, even believing
it isn't there is to imagine
it which means it is in even the minds
of atheists which means it is just
as real as any one of my bodies
which means I will live eternally
or least least as long as there are words
& electricity like how my friend
died but his face still smiles
in the little square meant for faces
& I am still often told what he likes
so some of my bodies are forever,
& will inhabit the future though I might
not.

 

© 2015 Cogswell College •  191 Baypointe Parkway, San Jose, CA 95134 800.264.7955 • www.cogswell.edu