Sunday, September 15, 2013

Kelly Davio as This Week's Poet at Poet At Your Table

Poet Kelly Davio

I first met Kelly Davio a few months ago after she had joined our BookLifters group. Her positive spirit and upbeat personality would be an asset to any Northwest table. Kelly's first book came out this past spring and is already garnering much deserved attention.

For more information on inviting Kelly to your table --- or any of our poets --- please write to "poetatyourtable(at) You can also check out our web page right here.


Helen Taylor wrote the hymn “Bless This House” in 1927. It begins, “Bless this house, O Lord we pray. Make it safe by night and day. Bless these walls so firm and stout, keeping want and trouble out. Bless the roof and chimneys tall. Let thy peace lie overall.” Open any church hymnal and you will find its familiar words and tune. Enter any home and you might find the title printed or embroidered or cross-stitched and hanging on the wall. So, when Kelly Davio titles her first collection Burn This House, I know she means business. Business with tradition, with family, with the God who is called upon to bless and protect what might more rightfully be torched.

The first poem in the collection sets Davio’s mission and tone. The end of the poem asks, “To what / significance such eroded things?” This seems to be the question at the heart of the book, one that the speakers struggle to answer in different ways. Davio explores the erosion of faith, time, memory, and love with clear speakers who are unafraid to expose doubts and question the world. The speakers are alternately compassionate and cruel, ironic and sincere. They speak in poems that sometimes pin us down like an older brother until we call uncle or whisper soft doubts into our ears, making us question our own mothers.

Continue  reading The Rumpus review right here


With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister.
—Genesis 30:8

Rachel and Leah on a blue flannelgraph,
paper limbs clinging to fiber and shadow,
the edges of their arms overlapped, hand
holding hand. Sisters: their photocopied faces
told us so.

We two sat on the church room floor,
handling our cotton-ball sheep, all paste
and stringy wool, my lamb’s eyes drooping.
Your fingers crept out to grab at my sheep—
I slapped your hand away.

The Sunday school teacher plucked Rachel
form the board, tucked her behind Jacob’s tent.
The ball of her foot peeked beneath canvass,
suggesting the turn of a dance. Jacob loved Rachel,
but he hated Leah.

We thought we knew the meaning, then,
of the pair of sisters: one would be loved.
The other would stand outside the tent,
her paper arm extended, hand empty.
We eyed one another,

each certain that we would be the heroine
of our own myth, each the one to dance in the tent.
The way your face went hard told me that you
would leave me standing in the dust.
But we didn’t know—

Leah: from the Akkadian, meaning cow.
Meaning the one with the swollen eyes, her body
used to plow the fields, arms dragging a furrow
through soil and rock to feed the sons
born to her sister.

Rachel: from the Hebrew, meaning ewe.
Meaning the one used as sacrifice, the one
filleted, chopped, stewed for a meal.
The one stripped naked to clothe the sons
that weren’t her own.

Neither the victor, neither one loved.
Both chattel to a wandering shepherd,
wrestling over crusts of bread. We didn’t know
that a tent’s flap folds the way the body bends
to breaking.
                      Kelly Davio

For more information on inviting Kelly to your table --- or any of our poets --- please write to "poetatyourtable(at) You can also check out our web page right here.

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