"I think that the key to progress is collaboration, and, as members of a community, it's our duty to take care of each other and look out for each other. So, where ever you are, whatever you're doing today, I hope that in some little way someone shows you love, and that you can, in turn, show another person a little bit of love."
Austin Davis is the author of Lotus & The Apocalypse and most recently Compulsive Swim, published in Jan 2023 from Outcast Press. Davis is a homeless outreach organizer and the founder of AZ Hugs for the Houseless. Born in Indianapolis, Davis now lives and writes in Phoenix, AZ, where he uses poetry as a tool to help those with mental illness feel less alone in their struggles.
Welcome to the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Austin, what poems have you brought for us today?
This is "Lotus and Hallucinations" from my previous book, Lotus and The Apocalypse.
LOTUS & HALLUCINATIONS
You used to call me
at my home
on your purple rotary phone
with the really long extension cord
every evening when the sky
turned its darkest black.
This was during a time
when everything was funny
but no one knew how to laugh.
All the living rooms in every city
were filled with mothers watching
their game shows,
spooning peas and custard
into their mouths
from the microwaves on their laps.
All the garages in every suburb
were filled with weeping fathers,
balancing on their heads
like clowns after sex
who had run out of cigarettes.
We used to watch the fathers
from doorway to doorway
as they hit something with a hammer
that didn’t need to be fixed.
I kept my phone duct taped to my chest
all day, waiting for your call,
but when the phone did ring,
all sad and quiet,
I waited twelve and a half seconds
before answering. I knew it was you.
You knew it was me.
But who wants to admit that to themselves?
I’d pick up the phone
and you’d be chewing gum on the other end,
like always, and you’d blow
another pink bubble out of your mouth,
hoping it would float you to me.
It never did.
As I spit a ball of snot on to the shadows
dancing along my wall, you would say,
from your throat, not your teeth,
Not everything needs to be fixed, Lotus.
Some houses are built with the wrong bricks.
Don’t blame the painter
for trying to color a hole, Lotus.
Did you know that your skin
crawls at night when you’re alone in bed
because there are ALWAYS ladybugs making love
underneath your toenails?
It’s a shame your eyes
are on the opposite end of your body,
isn’t it, Lotus? Haven’t you ever blinked
yourself to life in complete darkness
and screamed and screamed
until the walls closed in around you,
trying to get you to shut up?
Haven’t you ever awoken to sunshine
and cried and cried so long,
your bed sunk deep into the earth
thinking maybe you’d sprout one day like a dandelion
if you knew what the dirt tasted like?
Some seeds won’t turn into grass, Lotus.
Some seeds will feed the birds.
Some seeds will kill the squirrels.
Some seeds will explode
in your stomach.
Across the hall,
in every cradle in every upstairs,
there was a baby
wishing someone would hug him.
He didn’t know what a hug was,
and he didn’t know why he wanted one,
but he could feel his skin growing old.
He knew he hadn’t been touched since he was a goldfish.
In every attic above every hell,
there was a girl kissing her elbows
over and over again, reassuring the birds
resting on the windowsill that
If a tattoo can be removed, so can a scar.
I used to walk from room to room
while you spoke to me,
looking in on the people I loved as they fell apart.
The world is a broken lightbulb
no one cares enough about to sweep up.
lick the glass
until your tongue bleeds sunlight.
I mouthed along to your words
as you said them
as if they were a song
and not a suicide.
You could never see me
over the phone, but you could hear
the click of my lips
and the snap of my spit
and when you finally stopped talking,
we felt the bubble pop all over our faces.
In that silence,
we both knew
that for the rest of the night,
at least we’d still be in love.
You've been listening to poems by Austin Davis on the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.