James Davis

Two poems from James Davis’s Club Q

followed by a note on the author


The Human Situation


I wake with the same erection I had during liftoff.
Cabin pressure, recycled air, a rhythmic, uterine rush.
My carry-on’s fat with Classics. My tray table buckles
under the Metamorphoses, page marked with boarding pass.
I’ve checked the Republic and stowed St. Augustine. I pray
for delayed landing and nurse a cran-apple cocktail.
The four-ounce plastic tumbler won’t stop sweating.

Below, the stark geometry of America’s midsection:
vast circular fields irrigated by a central pivot compass
and sliced into perfect sixths. Reddi-wip contrails.
Cauliflower cumulonimbi. Our shadow grazes the earth,
compartment by logical compartment, until it’s swallowed
by a larger shadow. Minor turbulence. A man tears a slit
into his package of nuts and empties it into his mouth.


My sister and her husband have just returned from Istanbul.
She’s wearing a sequined hijab. His English is spotty.
The turkey, as always, is far too large. We pray over it.
Before dessert, my father produces a Porky Pig cookie jar
filled with legal pad scraps, a Bible verse handwritten on each.
We all draw our scrap, unfold it, read it aloud. Dad explains
what each one makes him thankful for. The little things.

Once the carcass fits into the refrigerator, we break out
Taboo, the Game of Unspeakable Fun.
If I want my team to guess sister, I cannot say apostate.
If I want my team to guess love, I cannot say cock,
lube, fabulous, lavender, roommate, or buddy.
The parents look over the children’s shoulders. Vice versa.
I hold the buzzer’s pink button until I’m told to stop.


All flights canceled. On the news, a meager death toll:
three for the whole blizzard, all at the same time,
a mother and two sons retrieving supplies. Black ice.
Five-foot drift. The heat left on full blast
in their silver Escape. As usual, carbon monoxide,
the children first. California plates,
the locals cluck and switch back to the game.

I’ve warmed up to my old room’s tacked-up playbills,
the Mondrian imitation waffling over the headboard.
My professor has granted my request for an extension.
I remove a ceiling panel and browse my library: Freshmen,
Unzipped, a yellowing catalog (Abercrombie and Fitch).
Inside my senior yearbook, I’m told you’re going
places! Have a great summer! Never forget who you are!



White Chickens

Yeah right, replies so much. I depend upon myself, not your wheel, nor your polite chickens.
My love got lost at the Mineral Show and fell in with a flock of malachite chickens.

Even my grandmother has an iPhone. She texts rarely, hunting for the emoji juste.
Her daughter moved to a red state, bought a tractor, shoots coyotes who try to bite chickens.

So much depends upon history or, more broadly, Social Studies. My high-school rain dance
conjured only a happenstance of glitter and rare, collectible Rainbow Brite chickens.

Everyone’s crazy about protein these days. Every salad is a green meat-vehicle.
All these beautiful men at the gym strut like hypertrophied, hey-you-wanna-fight chickens.

Tonight’s special is served with a demi-glace of esoterica and simple syrup.
Oh, hi. I’m James, but you can call me So Much. See you at the White Party. Invite chickens.



James Phillip Davis was born on a U.S. Army base in Nuremburg, Germany, in 1985 and grew up in Colorado Springs, CO. He has a BA in French from the University of Houston and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Florida. He has worked in marketing and instructional design for a major restaurant chain and as a high school speech-and-debate coach. His poems have appeared in two installments of the Best New Poets anthology (2011 & 2019), as well as numerous print and online journals, including American Literary Review, Copper Nickel, The Gay & Lesbian Review, and 32 Poems. When not writing, he plays tournament Scrabble and is consistently ranked among the top 100 players in North America.