ISSUE FOUR
August 1998

William Virgil Davis

William Virgil Davis William Virgil Davis has published poems in many magazines. His books of poetry are: One Way to Reconstruct the Scene, which won the Yale Series of Younger Poets award; The Dark Hours, which won the Calliope Press Chapbook Prize; and Winter Light. He has also published short stories and several books of literary criticism.
Deserter    Read Along with the Author


She hid me
in the cellar.
During the day
I’d watch her
through the hole
in the floor
near the back door.

She moved so close
above me
I’d blink
when she passed.
We never spoke.

The men came
and went.
After a week,
I knew them
by their walks,
their smells,
what they spilled.

Sometimes
she’d come to the hole
and put her finger
through. Once
I took it in my mouth.

After dark
she’d fix my food
and lower
it through
the trap door
hidden under the rug.

All night the men again.
Sometimes
I’d watch them
as best I could
through the hole,
and listen to what
they said.

One
afternoon
she climbed down
into the cellar
to be with me.

The days
blended together
like fever.
My wounds healed
slowly.

Then, one day,
nothing.
No sound.
Nothing to see.
Two men came
into the room.
I listened
carefully,
and watched.

They hardly
spoke.
They carried her
away, her hair
swinging
loose like rope.

I waited half
the night,
pushed the trap
door up,
and ran.

Before morning
I was choking
on my own
blood.

Now I know
it would have
been better
for both of us
if she had killed
me when she
found me —
when we both
had a chance.

 

 

A Corpse in Gloves   Read Along with the Author


Only the hands are not there.
We stare at the cold face,

at the body we never saw naked,
at the floor and each other.

No one mentions the hands,
how it was she was wearing gloves,

or why, when they brought her in,
they didn’t take them off.

We had done our duty. We turned
to return to our lives. We knew

all anyone needed to know,
and how little there was to tell.

No one said anything about the gloves.

 

 

Tracks    Read Along with the Author


A man has crossed a field of new-fallen snow
and disappeared into the dark trees. No one

saw him come and no one saw him go. Now the snow
has stopped. The field, beautiful in the moonlight,

holds the man’s tracks, frozen where they fell.
This is all we know: a man crossed the snow-filled

field and entered the fringe of trees, and, shortly
after the snow stopped, he disappeared forever.

 

 

William Virgil Davis: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue FourThe Cortland Review