John Paul Davis


after Aziza Barnes
A road. Many roads. Hagiography
of my face. A prayer to my wild
history. Ode to the prophets. Ode
to the scientists. To novelists
& drunkards. Reminder
I am animal. Manhood’s bookmark
& masquerade. Reminder
I’m a poet. Curtain over the dark
of my voice. Herald of what remains
untamed in me. Ode to commotion,
to underbrush & wildfire. Ode to patience,
ode to thunder, to guitar strings
& scouring pads. Reminder I belong to more
than myself. Assembly of thin, kinked
saints. Anthology of days. Bracken
to trap the daylight against my cheeks
where it remains even after sunset.
Obstinate galaxy of tripwire. The blackest
hairs: inheritance from my father.
Hairs the color of starlight:
monuments to a life of survival
& hard celebration. Tawny
& brown hairs: the grasslands
of my youth where I spent
days like a last paycheck.
Reminder I’m living.
Ode to aerobic delights:
a lover’s fingers threshing
through it gently or gripping
& tugging. My body’s seawater
gleaming like fruit in its branches
after I’ve been running. Regiment
of whiskers, congregation of bristle.
The gospel according to testosterone.
Catalogue of victories & sorrows. Ode
to the wind. Reminder
I’m called. I didn’t ask
to be wire-faced & unmoored
but this was required of me
from before I had a name. I wanted
to hide in the belly of a whale,
but my father prays for me
& one day the Holy Ghost passed
this way with his burning back
to me, the air smelling of myrrh
& the constellations rearranging
& there was nothing I could do. Some spirit,
incorrigible & lyric took root in me. I craved
wild honey. I consorted with the broken
hearted. I rose, reborn,
from the river. My face erupted,
sprouted these tongues of flame.

John Paul Davis is a poet, musician, designer, and programmer living in Brooklyn, NY. He has had a beard for eight years. You can find out more about him at