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But, Please, Not Too Soon...

by Geffrey Davis

          for K

One day: there will be another
rebounding forest flared by fireweed
& yellow wood sorrel, the light burden of
their edible blooms outliving us.

There will be wind sometimes
entangling the acoustic leaves
& sweeping away the largeness of a quiet
for which we were never responsible.

No need to recover. No need to tend
those grounds for survivors who may stumble
into a healing forest as if the wilderness
of their own grief, the edge of their breathing

softened some by the sighs inside
any singing we will have left behind.

I have this fear of the unconscious ability for a story or a poem to teach a heart (starting with the one we carry) to rush the beauty of its own not being here. Isn’t our survival the greatest grace we have to offer anyone who would believe a singing to be brighter than the natural end of their own living? (Oh, that question has raised a litany of hurt hands in my mind…) And still, there is that other reality—how tiring and painful it can be to trust in a light that never seems to arrive. After sitting with a friend for part of the night, bending our ears toward the fatigue in our voices, but also holding each other safe (which is to say together) as we tried to name our difficult faith in relief, this is also me promising them, as I promise you, as I promise myself: I will never love the story or the poem of your life more than the breath you need to make it. And if your hope must take you to an easily imagined ending, let me hear you coming back to prove you pulled one more song of survival from that imagining. Or leave every damn note behind, if that’s what it takes—I only want the sacred sound of your return. Amen.

Geffrey Davis is the author of Night Angler, winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, and Revising the Storm, winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Finalist. His third book, One Wild Word Away, is forthcoming from BOA Editions in 2024. He has received fellowships from Bread Loaf, Cave Canem, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Whiting Foundation, and his poems have been published in The Atlantic, New England Review, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Oxford American, PBS NewsHour, and Ploughshares. Davis teaches with the University of Arkansas’s Program in Creative Writing & Translation and with The Rainier Writing Workshop.