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Likely Stories - The Bones Poems

Jim McKeown

The  latest poetry collection from Baylor’s Writer in Residence, surprises, amuses, and deeply affects this lover of fine poetry.


I'm Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

In June of 2011, I interviewed William Virgil Davis, writer in residence at Baylor University, on the publication of his latest collection of poetry, Landscape and Journey.  This most interesting collection details many journeys Bill Davis made throughout Texas and all the way to Wales in the UK.  His latest collection, The Bones Poems, offers 78, what I call short and skinny poems.  I especially like this form of poetry, and many of the poems I write fall into the same category. 

Davis has stripped his poems down to the bare bones – pun intended.  I read on page after page, poems reduced to their most basic essence.  The collection displays Davis’ clever use of words and images, which never fail to surprise and please.  The collection opens with poetic prologue titled, “Proem”: “they begin their journey back to flesh // they stand alone in the wind / and the wind / clothes them with words / and the words / break out in silence / as if reborn // to speak to those who are still in their skins” (1).  I carried this slim volume around for about three weeks before writing the review.  I dipped in and out of random pages as if to make sure these poems had the depth and spell-binding nature I noticed on the first read through. 

Here is another of many favorites, which affected me deeply.  “The Recognition.”  “when they bend / close // to the earth // their shadows / fill // with flesh” (16).  These unexpected images, the impossible actions and movements, leave me with a sense of wonder at the real meaning of time and existence.  “The Bones Circle” shows Davis’ sometimes playful mood.  He writes, “the bones circle / sniff / the damp earth // they seem to decide it will do / and turn // to step into the hole” (21). 

Some of the poems have a more frightening tone, and evoke passages from Dante’s Inferno.  For example, “The Drowned”: “like an image in a mirror / misted over / they sink from sight // falling through water / deeper than dreams / pulling their long screams // down with them” (23).  “They Make Love” amused me more than I expected.  Davis writes, “they are stripping off skin / letting it fall to the floor // naked / they switch / the lights off / and clash / in the dark / like armies // all night long / the sparks fly up / from them / burn away / in the wind // it is as exciting as death” (27).

My favorite among all is “Their Light.”  Davis writes, “they drink a cup of darkness / like water / like breath taken in // they sing their song / in the dark caves of the body // when you have forgotten them / they stand upright in the wind // and the wind is like long music / and the dark // and the dark / had never been so bright” (69).

I could go on and on, but time tolls the end of this segment.  I highly recommend this collection of thought-provoking, interesting, and most wonderful poems.  Pick up a copy of William Virgil Davis’ newest collection, The Bones Poems, and begin to notice the amount of time spent among this garden of verses.  5 gold stars

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and HAPPY READING!