Luke Davies


You, a land

In the expanse
of you
I was restricted
to the paved roads
even though
I was not for a moment
scared of rattle snakes
or polar bears.

I thought of the injustice
of red tape
when all that National Park
was out there,
you were so scenic,
so filled with pollen
and hummingbirds.

The hummingbird was simply
an improbability,
as was your habit
of mixing grace
and courage
with the snow leopard’s
uncanny knack
of avoiding detection.

Even on the walking trails
I yearned to run
through all those
fields of heather;
but day passes
were such a complicated
& campsites, forget it.

Then you’d be
suddenly a lioness,
pawing my windscreen,
though whether curious
or hungry,
it was always
hard to tell.
Radio collars, forget it.

So in the land of you
I chilled, hung out
in the nudist colony.
We played volleyball
and ate corn chips.
It was always
We had world enough,

and time.
But as a nation
you were mostly into
trade embargos.
I wanted the river,
and breezes like breath
and the land known close.
Maybe I was just pretentious

or expecting too much.
There are lands unknown,
and though one is an explorer
one can’t explore everywhere
at once, though one is
an adventurer one must accept
from time to time one can’t
adventure everything.


Maldon, 991 A.D.
-after the Anglo-Saxon

The heart sank under such grey skies:
no good way to spin 4,000 Vikings
waiting restless in their longboats
for the tide to bring them closer,
one stroke closer, one horn-blast away,
to my end. (For it was all about me.)
Then Byrhtnoth began to array us,
the forlorn, the foredoomed, the feymen.
He paced and gave counsel, edgy, asteed,
on how we might stand tight
this happy ground. He bade us hold
our roundshields rightly fast.

I hardly listened. O distant clouds.
Dismounting, he went to his hearth-band;
what is it with this gangly grace
before death? I felt an outsider
to laughter. Out there the Vikings sang,
that was more like it, something eerie
to get spooked about, distracted by;
and the world so tenderly
unveiling its final unveiling.



Luke Davies is the author of a number of books of poetry, including the award-winning Running With Light and Totem, and several novels, including the cult best-seller Candy and, most recently, God of Speed.  The film of Candy, for which Davies adapted the screenplay, starred Heath Ledger, and won the AFI award for Best Adapted Screenplay. About the poem ‘Maldon’ Davies writes: “I was close-studying some Anglo-Saxon texts in comparison with their modern translations. I’d never studied Old English at university; it was a somewhat stilted exercise in beginner fascination. But out of that, Maldon blends both a specific, and slighty skewed, playing with language, and translation, with a small narrative moment imagined from and lifted out of the larger context of the Anglo-Saxon epic ‘The Battle of Maldon’.”