129.1: Adam O. Davis:: Dusk or Arizona & Hush & Neighborhood Watch & Tijuana Horoscope 129

In his great poem “Mountains,” A.R. Ammons writes of “Counting my numberless fingers.” This might be a comment on the enhanced ear of Ammon’s poetry, its impeccable sense of line and enjambment, its economy of white space on the page. Adam O. Davis shares this instinct, a simultaneous sense of ear and line that delivers the intellectual and emotional punch of his language with astute immediacy. One feels that Davis’s poems are sketched out in a notebook during his meanderings and walks across his domain. He begins “Dusk or Arizona” coupling an observation with the poet’s metaphor:

          Darker yet. Our eyes

          inkwells in the machinery
          of night. We drove fever

          faster. The world threw

          itself sick around us.

This is all the desperation of the moment and the place, but Davis’s lines carry a precision that verges on the uncanny. Take “Neighborhood Watch,” where the poet carries his small, Williams-esque lines all over the page as though they were birds in flight or small things taken up by the torment of wind:

          I hear glottal talk
          in the suburbs,

          find sudden bouts
          of assonance lifting

          above houses like smoke
          from the 4th of July.

                    How best to render
                                                  the moment

                    How best to blunt
                                                  the happenstance

I know that any poet can dance their line breaks, enjambments, spacing, and usage of white space to whatever fashion they deem fit. However, Davis's poetic dance seems so carefully aware of the placements of words, the relationships of words to words, and where those words land on the page. His images are never stifled by confinements of line. His speaker’s personality is never stilted by such an economy in his placement of language. His meaning glitters crystal. He offends (same joke in one year, mea culpa, but it is true!); he delights. With me, dear audience, indulgence in these brilliant and masterful poems. Cody Todd

Dusk or Arizona

Darker yet. Our eyes

inkwells in the machinery
of night. We drove fever

faster. The world threw

itself sick around us.
I felt my body’s furniture

in my fingertips; heart

forking outwards, my very
order in heavy upheaval.

Indigenous life swooned

with industry. The sky was
a jailbreak of light. Then

it wasn’t anything at all.


The bird of my mystery is a butterfly
knife with song. It sings like a knife
in this kitchen of streetlights. In wing

& body the bird’s nothing past due
but a birdcage’s shadow, a sugar skull
on a sidewalk left to sun. Hush, sweet

electric bramble of matter melting
to less uniform matter. Please quiet
your liquid trilling past midnight:

The neighbors are never nice
and the meter man rarely accurate.
The days of door-to-door sales are dead

for all but those offering religion or free salads.
That is a sad fact. Imminent ghost of bird, turn pith
to sand, sarcophagus, or fig under the fury

of an Oklahoma sky where clouds idle
like the blackened skeleton of a boomtown
library. Map these bones. Spur us onward.

Spook shapeshifters & circuit boards
alike. Burn sleepless in your seasick
bed and I’ll do the same in mine.

Neighborhood Watch

Abacuses clack
like toy teeth.

Letters spill
from the page

like snakes swept

from the branches
of foreign trees.

I hear glottal talk
in the suburbs,

find sudden bouts
of assonance lifting

above houses like smoke
from the 4th of July.

How best to render

the moment


How best to blunt

the happenstance



That’s what
they do.

They have no
say otherwise.

There is a part
of me that I will
never understand.

Tijuana Horoscope

Hills afire with trash,
tacos, trucks containing
tacos & sugarwater.

Everyone is drunk
in Mexico tonight.
Everyone is drunk

in Mexico every night.
The fence next to
the bullring follows

its line into the ocean
where fish have no
nationality other than

an implicit allegiance
to the sea. When in Mexico
you must drink disco.

There, skeletons
have flammable bones,
animals eat candy,

you remember your dead
in coffee and flowers
that implode like stars.

All around are molten
hills unmarked on
this amorphous map.

My mouth is meant to murder
loneliness but words here
are a mishmash of miasma.

They’re kept in
the underworld’s
murky wallet.

This map is a mess
of God’s logic
and I wish it luck.

Where’s adventure
but in death, or,
at least, the threat of it?

Tell me a story
that doesn’t
need solving.

Play me a tune
the jukebox
doesn’t know.

I watch Mexico
drive by the border
in a gold Cadillac.

In its windows
I’m right there.