OATH / Christopher Davis



poems by

Christopher Davis

ISBN: 978-1-59948-792-2, 86 pages, $14 (+ shipping)

Released: April 9, 2020


Christopher Davis is the author of three previous books of poetry, The Tyrant of the Past and the Slave of the Future, winner of the 1988 Associated Writing Programs award, The Patriot, published by University of Georgia Press in 1998, and A History of the Only War, published by Four Way Books in 2005. A native of Los Angeles and graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, he lives in Charlotte with his partner, and is a professor (full) of creative writing in the English Department at UNC Charlotte.

One poem in Oath ends: “love: helping others feel, before dying.” That perfect definition arises from an exacting examination of a life keenly felt in Christopher Davis’s exquisite new collection. An “Orphic Orphan,” his song inseparable from “[t]his human mike, this hollow, fragile body,” Davis risks vulnerability (and Orpheus’s fate) to find tenderness through touch and words: “My heart, you know, feelings, needs to be/ touched, doesn’t yours?” Lie down with these poems, listen, feel. ~Brad Richard, author of Motion Studies, Butcher’s Sugar, and Parasite Kingdom.


There’s a sharp, steel-like edge to the lines in Christopher Davis’s poems—so finely wrought are they, and attuned to “the brutality of fact,” the limits of human interaction. The promise of his words (the oath of the title) is “To tell // the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth.” As few poets do. These pitiless poems both demanded and earned my full attention. ~David Trinidad


If the world is a torn place, wherein humanity is a decaying meat parade, a pitiful bunch of cringers unaware of death—both are also worthy of our love, or better, our adoration. Christopher Davis demonstrates the quality of this love in the astonishing orphic, wild ride, Oath. Declaring, “I need you, body, to do weak material, burning,” Davis explicates the oldest paradigm for love, wherein the ecstatic fact of Eros leads to agape, and the transit, ravishing as it is, becomes destroyer. A postmodern and resurrected Rimbaud, Christopher Davis’s linguistic and imaginative force gives readers a portrait of a poet at the height of his powers. ~ Claudia Keelan



My big dumb inappropriate body urges, “Unity, social security,
creativity cramped, stuffed with words, not farts…so fucking

what? Let’s spend all our arcade tokens stamped with rams!
Test life! Crash me, dummy, against the brutality of fact!

Come, aim, piss upon the Book of Common Prayer,
the yellowed pages of the Book of Natural History

igniting under our magnifying glass, not some kaleidoscope;
underline, in Plato, ‘Sex, anger ‒ poetry makes these grow.

She may return to us from exile if the case can be made
that poetry is a source of goodness as well as pleasure.’

Whenever we do vote, let’s scribble Wilde.
Facing light’s fist, kissing its ring, we die,

snatched up, handed over, voided
out, no world view, viewpoint.”





The black stud, cruising, hates me and my race.
He hunches in the steam room’s shadows, glares
like a panther at my expensive flab.

My anxious stare embarrassed him. He gets
to shove me back: aging, I’m defenseless.
Imagination is decaying sense:

lash me to your ant-hill, Zulu love god!
Big, proud, double-you double-you dot org,
no bacon strip of brown on tight white shorts,

you’re in your in, now take revenge, humble
Humpty, my fragile shell cracking, crumbling,
my flaccid tongue exactly unlike yours,

right, shower water hotter over there,
nature stronger than law. Our skin’s not fair.





“I am a very private person,” hollers my neighbor,
a redneck bugger wrapped in purple suspenders,

through his black wrought-iron fence, its twisted
decorations, a dragon, a phoenix. “Come on in!”

My host’s den stinks of mothballs, mildew, wet
pet mutt. One nightstand polished, to a deep,

shit-brown, Lemon Pledge shimmer,
he wants something of me, fucking

puppy, but what,
what? Shockingly,

he smears a dildo with creosote smelling
not unlike the overheated asphalt of the highway straight to hell.

He shoves it up my butt. Feeling
like a van packed with explosives, popping

off, I arch my legs, remember
the bright lights, big city

of being born, picture flying
home to mother, imagine

concrete buttresses, squat
down lower, visualize

that spider-shaped diner at the center
of the short term parking lot of Los

Angeles International Airport, if Security
had been lax, New Year’s Eve, like it’s

nineteen ninety nine, and Ahmed,
a stranger, other culture, a loner,

not a stoner with a boner,
not a poet, not a lover,

not self-conscious, or, reader,
do I really mean, self-aware,

had awakened us, his fist,
miss liberty’s torch, bursting,

burning glass, tears, cascading
across Inglewood, destroying

dry arroyos I believe would
be deaf to coyotes, crying,

or should be, anyway.
Sincerely, the enemy


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