Waking to Light

Original price was: $14.00.Current price is: $12.00.

poems by

Phebe Davidson

Poetry book, 92 pages. Cover price: $14

($12 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)

ISBN: 978-1-59948-385-6

Release date: 2012



Phebe Davidson is the author of several published collections of poems, most recently Plasma Justice (Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2011), The Surface of Things (David Robert Books, 2009) and Seven Mile (Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2009). She is a contributing editor at Tar River Poetry and a staff writer for The Asheville Poetry Review as well as the founding editor of Palanquin Press. Her book reviews and poems appear regularly in a variety of print and electronic venues. Self-described as a recovering academic, she is a Distinguished Professor Emerita of the University of South Carolina Aiken and still up to her neck in poems. She lives in Westminster, SC.


Phebe Davidson is a careful observer of both the natural world and the human heart, and she refuses to tell fibs about either one. The spirit of the aubade pervades Waking to Light: that distinctive harmony of endings and beginnings, of wistfulness and celebration. I admire this book’s eloquent awareness of the small, transitory blessings that sustain us as we grow older: “even when the moon is down,/ they light us to our door.”

–Gil Allen


Waking to Light is a book fueled by love. Here Phebe Davidson gives us her most powerful poems yet, as she reflects on the daunting dilemma of living day to day not only in the midst of wild beauty but also with the knowledge of death. The poems–in particular, the ones about her marriage–weave their story with clarity and nuance of feeling, but not an ounce of sentimentality. Davidson calls upon the natural world, with its constant and ever-changing cycles, to remind us how tenuous one life is, how brief. To read these poems is to revel in a vocabulary of beauty and to peer into the unknown when one is on the brink of loss-“an emptiness / at the table, absence speaking / more than words have ever done.”

–Susan Laughter Meyers


Waking to Light illuminates a shimmering vision of life and life leaving. Davidson is “cheek-to-cheek” with nature, with loss and ultimately, with death in this stunning collection of selected poems. Absence is ever present, and Davidson shows how nothing lasts, “not even the patient gnaw of pain.” Her poems witness the many ways that love and grief are intertwined, shining a searing light on the world of the heart. Written in sometimes spare, always understated, lyrical lines, her words fall into brilliant forms, be they elegies or love sonnets. Whether it is the exquisitely told journey of the loss of memory that “fills, then empties, chills” or poems taken from an artist’s brush to back country creeks and rivers whose names echo with history, these poems are “too beautiful not to believe.”

Diana Pinckney

Easy Aubade

He left the dock so early
the water was gray. Light was just
smearing the lake,

nearly but not quite there.
The kayak, white and clean, was riding
low in the water.

The long double paddle dipped and rose.
She could see only one clear color-
That orange vest. His.



Stormlight on sourwood.
Sky of backlit cloud.
We wake to light our whole lives long,
not knowing if the world will break,
the song enchant twelve thousand years
or more. Always, we think, is here:
this present tense of froggy burp,
of muscadine, osprey, and beech,
of bird call and cicada’s scream
all straining toward the light.
We are only what we are. No more. No less.
We have seen the sky unzipped at night,
felt the weight of hail spewed down.
Yet day’s illumination falls on us.
Most nights a slant of radiance.
Always morning and evening.
Always the first day.
Always, we think. Again. Again.


The Muse

The moon is up again tonight,
whey-faced and mottled with bruises
like someone I used to know.

What do you think you’re doing? she asks.
I have nothing to say. I am empty as air ,
and I think that makes me safe.

Tell me, she whines, in my mother’s voice.
Do you think you are getting away with this?
I almost say something back, but I don’t.

Your father beat you up I think,
and clamp my mouth tight shut.
She wants to know what I remember.

Two skinny kids with grasshopper knees.
I couldn’t have helped you I say out loud.
Why don’t you give it up?

Then she says What are you writing for?
And I don’t even know.


Late Love Poem

Too much passion overwhelms a line.
She writes Sad rain and wants it to explain
unyielding sorrow, unrelenting pain–

Everything I see is yours or mine.
A ream of paper, clutch of ballpoint pens–
your coffee mug, my teacup, your design
for pantry shelving, my supermarket wine.
We never thought to come to such an end.

This morning’s sun is wan. The sky is gray.
Outside the leaves have just begun to fall.
She eyes the phone and hopes someone will call,
but doesn’t look for much, decides to stay.

The thing most deeply felt remains unsaid:

How shall I be alive when you are dead?

If you would like to read more of Waking to Light by Phebe Davidson, order your copy today.

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