Teri Ellen Cross Davis

Three Poems

20th Anniversary Reflections

Teri Ellen Cross Davis was first featured in the journal in the Summer 2004 Portfolio Issue (Volume 5:3), and her work has since appeared in three special themed issues: The Split This Rock Issue (Winter 2008, Volume 9:1, guest edited by Regie Cabico with Kim Roberts); the Tenth Anniversary Issue (Winter 2010; Volume 11:1); and the Cave Canem 20th Anniversary Issue (Spring 2017, Volume 18:2, guest edited by Holly Bass and Joel Dias-Porter). She has guest edited two issues: The Evolving City Issue (Fall 2007, Volume 8:4, with Kim Roberts), and the Poets Respond to Shakespeare Issue (Summer 2016, Volume 17:3). She has been a dear friend and supporter of the journal since its earliest days, and her commitment to community and discussions with the editors about craft have been instrumental to our thinking.

Cross Davis writes: “Working on The Evolving City (Fall 2007) and the Poets Respond to Shakespeare editions (Summer 2016) of Beltway Poetry Quarterly allowed me to get know so many more poets in the area. Reading their work was a challenge that made me feel for editors who do this on a consistent basis. Crafting an issue was not only a task of curation and discovery but it made me appreciate the supportive nature of the literature scene in Washington DC even more than I had before.”


Three Poems

3939 Standhill Road

Like intruders, we tread cautiously
on the icy stone path around the house.

This is the landscapes of my dreams.
The iron gate that safeguarded the patio?

Rusted and flaking to the ground. Creaking
it acquiesces and announces our entry

to the empty yard behind us.
We peer thru windows

just like thieves 45 years ago.
My grandfather finding their footsteps

in new-fallen snow. Now the windows
are striped with bars, so we see nothing.

The boxy backyard that housed
my Barbie’s adventures seems smaller,

tamer now. This was my father’s home,
mine, now it’s a listing in the paper.

My aunt still has keys. She takes us inside.
Under dust, a living room huddles.

Sunny tile in the kitchen
clashes against the black/white remodeling.

Upstairs in what was once
my parents’ threshold

my husband hunches
awkwardly to fit.

I lead him to my old room,
but it’s no longer pink

shell and succor. A boy slept here.
I can tell. Still my lips spill

story after story, each nick, gouge, crayon score
cracked walls echo back, more hollow

than before. I cannot paint the colors right.
Can’t fill in the laughter, the security—

each name carved in wood on the bookcase.
Out front Mommy and I planted tulips;

red then yellow, until the squirrels
mixed them up. Thirty years later

only two survive, haggard and slumped,
punked by the longer, lingering winter.

Grandma’s daylilies, her pride, wilt
in this nor’easter’s grasp. My aunt

locks the door behind us. And I am not
sure it was good to say good-bye from

this close-up. Back in Maryland, the past
was pictures buried in a photo album.

Now I am deafened by the din of loss.
Blinded by April snow. This was the first house

our family owned. My grandfather’s insistence
in land, finances, a safety net. Grief is now our tightrope.


White Barbie

White Barbie’s body fit easily
between two black iron railings—
no need for bondage. She was always
perfectly cast as damsel in distress.
White Barbie in “The Sacrifice
to Cookie Monster.” White Barbie
stolen away by “The Handsome
Thief.” White Barbie discovered
“On A Desert Island.” Dressed well
for her role, one shoulder bare
in a silver column gown, high-
heeled shoes (to be kicked
off in the struggle).

Sometimes she’d scream, faint,
horror frozen on her painted face.
Oh, the monster would have her.
The gown would unsnap, shimming
down slim hips showing nipple-less
breasts, plastic cones shiny in golden
afternoon light. The stark trail of blonde
strands hanging limply from Cookie Monster’s
maw of a mouth. White Barbie
—fragile, wanted, pretty—the best victim.
Who would want a Black Barbie anyway?


We all want to be ablaze

to compete with the beautiful
decay of autumn. The body hunkers
down in cashmere, angora and leather.

We quicken our pace, tongues anticipating
snow’s biting lace. Heels grind maple’s
demise, sweetgum leaves sing crimson

lullabies. A leaf’s extinguishing beauty blows
on the embers of the long, dark months ahead.


Teri Ellen Cross Davis is the author of Haint (Gival Press, 2016). She is a Cave Canem fellow, and member of the Black Ladies Bruch Collective. She has attended the Soul Mountain Writer's Retreat, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Hedgebrook, the Community of Writers, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her poems have been published in many anthologies including Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem's First Decade, Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC, and Not Without Our Laughter. She is the Poetry Coordinator at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC and resides in Silver Spring, MD with her husband, poet Hayes Davis and their two children. To read more by this author: Teri Ellen Cross: Summer 2004 Teri Ellen Cross's Introduction to The Evolving City issue, Fall 2007 Teri Ellen Cross: Split This Rock Issue