Category Archives: Catherine Davis

Rock, Paper, Scissors by Catherine Davis

Picture point A. Hesitant, curious, shy. (A is a Modigliani in a Van Gogh starry night.)

Point B emerges on the horizon; now A is aquiver with visions of a dance. (B is handsome Hiawatha lately of the forest.) And voilà – points A and B conjoin. A solid line through space and time, spinning, stretching, drawing so close as to be barely distinguishable.

Enter point C: saunter, slither, blast. See what you get. (C is a Siren, with luscious blues and overripe lips.) A and B are intoxicated. Much ado, and so on.

A triangle is considered a stable structure. Ha.

A triangle is a structure, in fact, only insofar as it remains a triangle. When two of its legs fall off, it becomes a line, with a redundant point hovering somewhere off in the margin. It’s a new order.

Picture point A. Off course, wobbling, confused.


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THIRTEEN WAYS OF NEVERMORE: ARKANSAS, 12/31/2010 by Catherine Davis

Pas de cinq mille, in B minor.

(The stage will be crowded.)

Instruments: violin, cello, blue guitar, tambourine.

~ ~ ~

Scene: MIDNIGHT all day. Bleak December. A chiaroscuro, snowing blackbirds.

Swirling FLIGHT. [Andantino > vivace > agito > furioso ffff]

Action: NO ONE hears them cry out – in this un-startled ear of night. At least, no one admits it, afterwards.

Always there are shadows, ghosts rise and fall. It happens all the time. This is only a part of the PANTOMIME.

Primary characters: an INNUENDO, perhaps: being slight of brain, they follow the wrong leader. Or, not understanding signals, they mistake the red beacon and fly against a GREEN LIGHT.

Costume: Extravagant black plumage, with RED-tipped wings.

Secondary characters: the THIN MEN, who prefer golden birds. To embrace the beauty of light or the beauty of dark, this was never their question.

Pre-Scene: Beebe was already knee-deep in BIRD SHIT. (Hm, recreate or not?)

Abruptly: in a denser air, between issue and return, not a FEATHER flutters. Sudden, utter stillness. [Mysterioso]

Now, five thousand: plummeting. Keeping time, time, time. PLUMMETING, each a singular instant.

The breast, the bone, dashed bodies on stone. Maybe ASPHALT. (In sixes, dancers crash to floor.) [Sforzando piano sfzp]

Easy as EGGSHELLS. Broken beaks, broken bells. Wingless and withered, by the blunt force of earth. Crimson blooms on each breast, spreading. Spreading, until: fade to RED. [Morendo]

Where do I begin?


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Aspects of the Story by Catherine Davis

Three stories spinning at once, not to mention watching out for cars. It’ll be a wonder if your Asparagus Syndrome client doesn’t end up on Poet’s Walk picking her way through masses of grackles and starlings.

Lock this bike to the rack.

Plus that song repeating all day, an– hold on! Asparagus is an item on the shopping list, not a story – see? See! Good thing for the helmet, so nothing else gets in, but on the other hand: what if it’s a pressure cooker, exacerbating the whole situation?

Pull the helmet off.

Consider the detail that a good thirty percent of life is past your bedtime. Stolen. No wonder the sun is always going down. Now, for instance.

Plunk an asparagus into the basket. Also bananas.

Sirens bark in the distance, dogs wail around the neighborhood. Ah, Dodie Smith, you smile. But: those puppies clamoring to be adopted in Houston. Also emails due for Berlin, Auckland, and Orange County Penitentiary. An address you unfortunately don’t have. You frown.

Think: Mapplethorpe envisioned the whole, complete, in an instant – then simply raced to execute. So they say.

That neighbor has spotted you ­– despite your cycling disguise – you’re forced to chat at the checkout, clenching your teeth against blurting out what her ruffians did to your yard. And the private line is ring-ring-ringing through: Hello, hello – these are your stories calling!

Christ, put the helmet back on – don’t let another thing in! Goggles, too. Rose-colored. At least there’s the filter of that.


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A Fair Opportunity, by Catherine Davis

“Step on up! Get your CO-incidence Plan, OR: your FOR-tay’un MYS-ter-ies! A ONCE in a lifetime OP-portunity!”

Miranda’s friends had taken off: no bialys or bracelets here. But the silver-haired man, his musical voice, his conjuring hands – this electric air had captured Miranda.

“Invest in your OWN beliefs, LAY-dies and Gentle-MEN!”

Suddenly it’s her turn. The silver-haired man and his partner rush her: Birthday? Right-handed; left? Favorite color? Now, THE question.

“My mom says there are no coincidences.”

“And your dad says – nothing but.” Miranda frowns. “Lucky guess,” he shrugs.

“Still, I don’t know what ‘fortayun’ means!”

“Sure y’ do, hon, otherwise you wouldn’ta come. Your Fortean Mystery is exactly the opposite of coincidence, see? How much you got?” Man Two talks fast.

Coincidence: one quarter; Fortean: five bucks. Miranda shifts foot to foot.

Man One sighs. “Coincidence is cheap. Popular. Makes people comfortable. But you seem a young woman of… ? Ah, you get what you pay for. Then, Fortean is… complex.”

“No guarantees!” interrupts Two. “You got the opportunity to make life easy.”

Miranda studies the piggy-bank money cupped in her hands. “One of each?”

“Noooo,” they chime. “Gotta be one way or the other,” Two adds, arms folded.

She starts– but they shush: “Whisper into my ear,” says One.

Pocketing her money, they flourish a fancy certificate: gold seal and all.

“Keep it to yourself,” they say, rolling it up.

Miranda hurries through the crowd, past cotton-candy vapors, clutching her prize – eyes wild with worry and wonder.


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Houston Street, 6PM by Catherine Davis

52|250 would like to thank Catherine Davis for this week’s picture, Houston Street, 6PM. Here is her succinct summation.

“Just so; whatever was I thinking? August 2000.”


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The Way the Wind Slices by Catherine Davis

Beneath your frozen boots a butt in every seam of the sidewalk, so quit counting. Quit veering towards the curb where cab after cab sprays the pooling slush, while honking at god knows what. Think back to the warehouse, those thousand pounds of womanflesh glaring at you one more time-card long. Shit, so it’s uncool to notice the spare tires on those five, six bitches, how they waddle –they are going to keep at it forever ‘cause you eat French fries at lunch. Right on past tomorrow’s snow day without pay, and how the fuck can below-freezing still be wet? Across the street, a homeless guy goes down on the black ice. Sure you’d like to help, or to think that you’d like, but it’s bitter and your fingers are freezing too. Yank the hat against the bite, hunker faster and tighter.

Still, the way the wind slices, you gotta admire. Wind knows its business.

At last inside with your frostbroken feet, it’s colder than it oughta be. Only when the light switch mocks you in the indifferent dark, do you snap to the disconnect notice fallen on the threshold. Today the power company came calling. How you’re supposed to pay, it’s no use to ask. Shut the door, dump your shit, light a joint. Gather the blankets and coats in the whole place on top of you. Reckon whether your feet will be colder with the soggy boots on or off. Contemplate your breath, fogging in the gloom.


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THE BROTHERS VERNE by Catherine Davis

Underneath, distance is the thing, not time. Time, only insofar as how long it sustains. On one breath.

Kid can swim. Two minutes seventeen, second turn. Length of limbs: mechanical advantage. Slenderness of frame: reduced drag. Accidents of birth, not strength of mind. “Citius, altius, fortius!”

The bottom is tinted with fine shades of ultramarine. Surely the way we were meant to move in the world. If not gills? Adaptation. A single breath – extend until it capitulates and – I’m in. Blast the barrier.

Two and forty-eight. Carbon dioxide dribbling up to the surface. Soon will be nothing left, then fire, cells screaming, and he’ll give it up.

Burbles, gurgles, whooshing of displaced water. Sunlight refracting in shards. The solar rays easily crossed this aqueous mass and dispersed its dark colors,

Hypoxia. It happens.

His shadow cuts the light as he stands by, clocking me. He will be so proud: a younger brother worth having! One league only is fifty-five laps plus one length of this pool. Imagine. It can be done, in time.

Teach the brat a lesson. He challenges my three minutes, seven?

Every cell of my skin feeling the flow – a billion individual sensations. This is… alive.

Can’t be doing three, twenty-two and still… no, not moving. It’s inaccurate data. Reset, I’m done.

I call your name, but you don’t hear. I’ll sleep now, while I wait.

So? Hypoxia, he gets a snootful, he’ll snap out of it.

Brother, how will we reach the bottom of the sea?


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Border Crossing by Catherine Davis

Last we spoke, we dashed our cells onto highways, into the paths of semis. This wasn’t going to be like that. Fanning the pages of the album backwards, thumbing our noses at what hadn’t played out, so long ago.

Here is Del Rio. There is Ciudad. In de Chirico stillness at the edge of town, edge of the country – alone I wait, I worry, I want. From this poor motel room it’s high-pricked sensation: a deep lazy backbeat underneath the jangling thrill, the winding, rise-and-fall chirring of the cicadas, and the maraca sizzle of a thousand rattlers’s warnings. An awning flaps, if only in my mind.

The heat warps my view, revealing the true meltedness of it all. As it was then, so it is now: without warning, he appears on the rise at the end of the road.

I watch the sexy strut of dissolution coming onward. My sultry almost-cowboy hitches and rolls his lizard rhythm down the road, pacing this eternal inevitable path. The jingle-jangle of desire pulses against the lassitude of the dust. His shadow is long.

“I’m here,” he says.

“You are,” I say.

“You’re here,” he says.

“I am,” I say.

From the doorway, he watches with orange-flecked eyes.

“Slouch toward me, rough beast. Ignite my womb.”

“You don’t…”

“Now, the full catastrophe. Come on, before we cross.”

The dust on his face is fine. Of salt, of chalk, with a mineral bite. Lips like they ever were, like no others.

We’re going down, down.


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Luck by Catherine Davis

52|250 thanks Catherine Davis for her photograph, Luck, this week. We asked Catherine what circumstances led to her picture Luck:

Life on the Petal River near Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was replete with lizards and tree frogs. The lizards most often caught my attention while inside the cottage, being terrorized by a couple of cats. Outside on the deck one afternoon, however, I spied underneath the patio table a bright green tree frog sitting on the shoulder of a bright green lizard. Such strangeness demanded a closer look, needless to say – whereupon I discovered that this was no tree frog at all, and the activity much more intimate than I had imagined.

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The Taming by Catherine Davis

This snit – furious with even the cats. Silkily they glide beside, round ankles, cross keyboard – trailing me. N-n-never screamscold a cat.

I need to run. Rampant, amok, wild on the savannah. 

Ding-a-ling, La Friendessa, getting back. “WHAT!” I woof. “Always, you gotta get off, oh! – the subway, doctor, thrift-store, museum! For pooch-type predicaments, I had patience. So, you ever gonna replace that Pippy, god rest her, or what?” Click off, craving an old rotary you could clang down good.

Scrambling to locate my hat. Shoes, key!

The cats have chins pulled in by the time I break out.

Half a block on, trotting away: this frigid raindrop splats on my lid. I spit on the street and glare at the sky: raise ya! 

Convinced I have a secret strain of asthma, undetectable unless confessed. My doctor’s long distance – in subways, no doubt, or museums. Huff on.

A Labrador ahead, pee-pausing on hydrant.

Chew over unreturned messages, e.g., Mr. Placid’s hep-tone text: Wanna catch a flick? (Scram! Don’t you get this isn’t MOVIE time?)

To the hydrant: “All-fucking-ready 2011!” Kick that pee-marked sucker to the ouch.

Here’s a station-wagon dogging me now. Not! Stopping! Busy, see? Even if it is Father, reclusive these twenty years since he died. Sure, when I lunge to latch on, that silver wagon disappears in a swirl of exhaust.

Back to the house with a limp. The cats sit Egyptian on the staircase, watchful. Sotto sotto now, watching these watchers, I breathe their rhythm.


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The Terror, Seriously by Catherine Davis

“I have a fear of becoming a bag lady,” I confess to my therapist. Embarrassed by the sound of my words in this walnut paneled library, two French doors to a balcony, I am thinking of throwing the paisley over my head – afraid that she might hit me. Here off Madison, with the I-don’t-give-damn threadbare oriental easing the situation, I’ve already shrunk into the worn leather sofa, nestled into velvet pillows.

“How do you plan to manage that, as you own a house?” in her flat no-nonsense tone, wry smile. I adore her: head of this preeminent institute, speaking engagements world-wide, four books. Also elegant, a mensch, and she likes me. How can I not win? I watch my fingers lace and unlace, chew the thickened spot inside my lip.

I want to say: I know!

Say: Still!

Say: Terror!

Instead, I exhale dramatically, shrug, catch her eye and reply: “I will FIND a way.”

She laughs richly. Game point mine, session over.

“Ha, hoodwinked!” Lisa hoots later over Chardonnay, leaning toward me, eyes aglow. “I hoodwinked ‘em all. Charmed their pants off. Why I quit going to therapy – once you get them that loose, no use.” Her diamond sparkles as she pursues a speck in her glass.

“But you know, I’m afraid of it, too. Bag lady: one of the foremost fears of women in Manhattan. True. They really should take us more seriously.” Down goes that last half glass, as she raises the finger of her other hand.


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Rock, Roll, et al. by Catherine Davis

She looks for the obit, can’t find. Over and over, looks. Nothing. Nothing except something touching her shoulder.

Follow me.
Corridors, doors, along and along, no time to notice that this last is the stage door – she was so suddenly there in the blare and glare.
You can sit here if you’re quiet. She was. The next night too, and so on.
You can dance if you don’t get in the way. She wasn’t. Anything but in the way right to the Pyramid Club. Go4, YMG, OMD, XTC, Human Sexual Response, she can.
Byline: gossip, so the usual. Bars, huge stars, passes, releases, buses, backstage and blow. Mostly the music – she can dance. Sex, of course, don’t be dim.
A compromised sort of salvation, but she liked it. Called her Pokey, to disguise her true role as goddess-object. Eventually tired of his toe licking, she walked her combat boots out of there.

Christmas card written on Thursday: I wanted to write you while I still could – news from the doctor isn’t good. The death Friday. Call from the daughter, Sunday: was so very fond of you.Wondering. But what?
Daughter said death had nothing to do with his illness. News not that bad. All she would say.
No obit.
Something touching her shoulder – was it Friday night?
She takes their picture to the shrine in the next room.
Only rock and roll, reminds herself now. She liked it. So? It wasn’t enough.


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Multiple Simultaneous by Catherine Davis

We are all multiple simultaneous.

We could have, should have, seen it coming, but who would have believed? Only doctors of decadence – say Orwell, Burgess, Burroughs, Wells – name your own fave flavor. Lick twice. Nice.

Merrily we roll along, beep-beep: Fashion!

Your next plosion could be your last, or best. Do it in the road. Ankle bracelet yourself to your twin, cause it’s going to be one crazy ride, kids.

Is is IS. Definition please, bailiff. Thank you. Gavel that, gang.

Yes. Yes indeed.

After the CHIP, forget it. Hush-up internationale, mais bien sûr. The black market in anti-transmission helmets will very billionaire those who dare.

Go cataclysmic. Too late! Done that, next please.

Multiple simultaneous. Just breathe, breathe. Activity classification ancient. Can you remember? Autonomic has evolved: zoom zoom.

Did not report spontaneous combustions planet-wide, especially incidents occurring in USA. Messy as spaghettios splattered out of over-boiling pot. Did put on the lid, fyi, ‘i’ being classified, and totally inaccessible.

Circulate, regenerate. It’s the new prehensile. Grab a sharp pencil and stickittotheman. Through your temple, otherwise, if you want to get off.

One two three, one two three, one two three – in case that helps. But as we are bi-podal, wtf??

What would a mollusk do?

Multiple simultaneous – so if you can’t keep up, they probably – heh heh, yeah – know what to do with you. Don’t cry to me sister, I have my own load.

Say it with me now:

Multiple simultaneous. Multiple simultaneous. Multiple simultaneous.

Repeat as necessary.


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Cows in Silence by Catherine Davis

A cow wanders onto a roof and falls through the skylight. It is a calamity, but such an innocent mistake. Mightn’’t you wander onto a roof once upon a full winter snow in Vermont?

A cow climbs a gravel mound in Virginia, perhaps to see what it can see in its little corner of the world. Not much gain in elevation, alas, and then that sinking feeling. Up to its armpits when I spy it from the road. Good job on saving that cow, my friend tells me later, after calling its owner to inform him. You know Junior’s just going to go whack it over the head with a hammer, and there’s dinner, don’t you, he says.

Rushing dizzy into headlights out of the late rural blackness, a cow, stock still staring, in the middle of River Road. Collision averted by the skin of my teeth. Few seconds further on, reconsidering, I u-turn. This cow is booking it like nothing you’d believe when I catch up. Cow herding by Volvo, but then it turns into a field. Mississippi 911 is blasé: where is it now? I don’t know, I say, but it’s fast.

This cow is curled by the fence a few feet from the sparkling aqua pool where I swim. This cow is white, all its friends are white too. Beauty beside beauty within beauty — this is France.

All over everywhere, cows train in a single direction across vast pastures, harking to some silent, inner compass.


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