Carol Davis's poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, North American Review, Atlanta Review, Bellingham Review, Mid-American Review, Agenda (London), Cyphers (Dublin), etc. and in anthologies, including Nice Jewish Girls. Her 1st chapbook was Letters From Prague (1991). She spent 1996-97 as a Fulbright scholar in St. Petersburg, Russia, where a full length collection, It's Time to Talk About... was published in a bilingual edition. A new chapbook, The Violin Teacher, was published in 2005 (Dancing Girls Press, Chicago). She has had work read on Radio Russia and on NPR radio, on the program Sound and Spirit. She spent fall 2005 in Russia on a 2nd Fulbright scholar's grant. She teaches English and Creative Writing at Santa Monica College, CA.

Her manuscript Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg has just won the 2007 T.S. Elliot Prize and will be published in September (Truman State University Press.)

The Violin Teacher Gives A Lesson in How to Sing

I take his voice, not knowing
if the words will trip, hesitant
as a toy coil on stairs, in his
language or mine.
Internalize it, play it back.
Even when the teacher explains
how the student must imagine the note:
hold it under the tongue like a magic stone
then widen the mouth and let it go.
There is the moment when the cage
door is opened before the bird flies out.
It knows its life is about to change
as yours is, when the mold of the canary's
feathers leaves the pillow of your palm
when the note is released without a waver
and the prayer drifting or steady
rises from your lips to God's ear.

Published in Janus Head


Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

after a painting by John Singer Sargent

is not the first painting
I was afraid of.
That distinction belongs
to Hieronymus Bosch,
a melon round head leering
with a pumpkin's grin.
The body of a lion married
to the feet of a crow.
It is Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose
that frightens me still.
Others take comfort in the innocence
of the mirrored girls in white, ruffled collars.
Those lanterns are not to be trusted;
the orange glow in their bellies
a beacon to the other side.

You can tell me how foolish I am.
It won't be the first time,
but who's to say the white lilies
are not omens of death, the one girl
a ghost of the other?

Prairie Schooner, forthcoming, 2007



If you denied a name to something
perhaps it would cease to exist.
Penelope Lively

This morning a froth of clouds
floats on a stripe of blue sky.
The sunlight cuts a swath over the top half
of the grove, the bottom sunk in shadow.

A foreigner , I am suspended without language,
the word for a needed object, twine for example, unknown.
The futile miming while a salesclerk
scowls his impatience.

I gather up my point-and-pay purchases.
A left and two rights to get home.
Syllables leak from the plastic bag
staining the sidewalk.
I unpack, then scavenge my apartment
for words, string them across the hallway.

Soon the frost will cover everything.
The words will freeze on the clothesline,
letters missing like the names beneath
photographs mounted on the gravestones.
Eyes that reprimand the living,
taking note of the infrequency of visits.

Without words to name them
the trees lose their crisp form,
blending one into the other, a gloss
of pale green, overlapping shades,
the mottled browns.

Nimrod, forthcoming, 2007


Carol Davis Moonday poetry reading

© 2007 Carol Davis

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