Two Poems by Adam O. Davis

From Index of Haunted Houses

September 10, 2020  By Adam O. Davis

Spirit Arithmetic

One nick.
Two nick-

els. Three lic-
orice twists before

bedtime. Four hours
of a leaky faucet. Five times

five times now. Six spoons I swallow.
Seven scratches upon the sun. Eight elms

invisible to the eye. Nine knots in a blonde braid.
Ten attics in this house. In this one we store strangers.


The Mosquito Monocracy

Josephine, I’ve junked
a jazz band, some squall
grullo by the cobweb’s logic.
All skulls and bouillabaisse
but we’ll see come Zulu
time if it’s of goodwill
or gall the Zoroaster sings.
All this in the hallway where
July stalls, jetlagged,
in the hallway where
the lemonade light lingers.

Every day was Halloween
in the Middle Ages:
the cravats of betrayed
consiglieri crispened under
Carpathian sun. So long,
Main Street. So sorry.
I’ve rung you jealous
to say slender things
from this fickle well.
I think it best we go
to bed now.

Roll them bones
at benthic measure.
The bankers of sleep
bicker in the break
room. I find telephones
humming in their buoyant
cases everywhere along
the river, all unanswered;
all when answered yield
the voice that calls
you to waking.

From the calcite
mountains of our mouths.

My time in Malaria,
among the mystic
zombies who dragged
themselves like trash
through the tropics
chanting, No time
like this time like
this time to waste,
was accurately reported
as an adventure in
rudimentary calisthenics.
They haunt me like
hemoglobin. From behind
bus terminals they ply
us in paper suits, watch
us like iceboxes.

Upon alkaline lakes we
skate on alkaline skates.
In ermine the eel eats
the eggs of each oak tree.
I eye the exit out into
the taxi-infested night.


Excerpted from Index of Haunted Houses by Adam O. Davis. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Sarabande Books.

Adam O. Davis
Adam O. Davis
Adam O. Davis' poems have appeared in many journals, including The Believer, Boston Review, Gulf Coast, The Paris Review, The Southern Review, and ZYZZYVA. The recipient of the 2016 George Bogin Award from the Poetry Society of America, he has received grants and fellowships from Columbia University, Western Michigan University, and Vermont Studio Center. A graduate of the University of California, Riverside and Columbia University, he lives in San Diego, California where he teaches English literature at The Bishop's School. He was also once hit by lightning. It felt, more or less, like you'd expect.

More Story
The Ancestry of Objects At night the house holds us like the thin shell around a yolk. We slide out of our shoes at the door. A small, dark enclosure...

Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.