David Havird

David Havird

David Havird is the author of two collections of poetry, Map Home (2013) and Penelope’s Design (2010), which won the 2009 Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize. His poems have appeared in Agni, The New Yorker, Poetry, Sewanee Review, Yale Review and elsewhere.

A native South Carolinian, he attended the University of South Carolina, where he studied under James Dickey, and the University of Virginia. In addition to poems, he has published articles on such southern writers as James Dickey, Flannery O’Connor, Elizabeth Spencer, and Allen Tate. He teaches at Centenary College of Louisiana.

All poems below from David Havird’s new book, Map Home (Texas Review Press, 2013).


The Nazis, who occupied Crete,
machine-gunned the men of Anoyia
and torched the town.

The widows took up weaving.

Tablecloths, coverlets, shawls
hang for sale from wires,
while women in black swoop down
as if from telephone posts
on summer tourists—hordes,
odds are, of Germans. You get out
of the rented Fiat Panda,
and buzzards throng.

Yet look at this embroidery,
red birds amid green foliage,
by one who plunged through the cloth
as if beak first with her needle,
leaving within the cotton
weave her sensual self,
while another emerged in black wool.

Now she’s choosing you,
not because you’re you
(or happen to be an American),
but simply because you’ve stopped.
She’d have you choose her work,
and drachmas will prove that you came.

Of course she’ll stay in black,
however scorching the season.
She’ll grasp at the tourists, half of whom
might as well be you
as someone else;
and if that one returned
miraculously home,
would he know her, his wife,
among the anonymous sisters?

Though you could never again
strain uphill to Anoyia
and spot among the pinched widows
the woman whose birds now roost
above your bed at home,
you keep her generous spirit.

And yet those birds overhead
might as well be black,
as night has them appear;
they never sing nor fan
their wings. Beside you your wife,
as if asleep, breathes wordlessly.

You fix your mind on sleep
and dreams, which you never remember.
You’re feeling yourself unravel.
You’re hunting among loose threads
for that one strand, your code,
which only her voice can break
into song. You stream through green,
where she has posed in red feathers.

Originally appeared in Seneca Review


The royal family boasted a summer villa
a mere three kilometers west
of Phaistos. Ayia Triada.

Low walls of tan stone, no columns.
Beyond an olive grove, blue mountains.
Cumulus dressing the peaks.

Behind my wife, who holds
the hand of our daughter, I climb
the stone steps out of the excavation.

He’s stationed himself at the top: white blouse,
black knee pants and boots, black scarf
like a skullcap, knotted in front.

His leathery face wears a week of white stubble.
He takes from his lips an inch of cigarette,
positions deep in his mouth a handmade reed whistle,

and toots. His fingers flutter over the holes.
He offers it first to our daughter, who’s sucking
her thumb. No trade. We purchase instead

a puny orange apiece, then strike out
up a red path, in search of shade for our picnic.
Look though I do, I cannot find the horse

my wife and even my daughter place
beside a fence of posts and sagging wire
at the foot of the path. We wondered,

was it the man’s? Or so my wife has imagined—
who did as he instructed
and furrowed her tongue around the wet reed.

Whatever inspired me to keep
bleached melon rinds, chicken bones,
the hairy blue bee that chased away my daughter?

Beneath a laurel, opposite us,
she’s making a mess of her orange,
the only one of the three not overripe
or corrupt with a tumor cocooning a maggot.

I climbed out of a ruin only to squat
in litter. Hugging my knees,
my weight on the rock-bruised bones of my butt,

I kept an eye on a stream of ants, the other
on lunch: cheese pies and baklava.
The heat-thinned honey had run and soaked the pies.

The Cretan sun was boiling me down to glue.
Where was that horse with wings?

Originally appeared in Texas Review


A Still Life

Those bits of terracotta are pottery shards.
Some of them even display a trace
of geometrical design. And here’s
the cove below that spot, blue now
which had been green, on what had been
the shaded side of the citadel. There on that ledge
when we were peering down at the cove—was it
a fox? Fox it became when it uncurled.

Now this, encircled by weeds,
is the hewn stone mouth of maybe a cistern.
The poet Seferis, when he was here with his wife,
disturbed a bat. Losing its hold,
it came at the sunlight. A spear at a shield.
Maybe the King of Asini’s gibbering ghost.

In Homer’s catalogue of ships,
to which Asini contributes,
the King is nameless. This absence
provokes in Seferis such nostalgia
he’s able to touch the stones where he touched them—
where maybe he did, the points of contact
regardless abraded by time—
and trace there a palpable presence.

Whether those rocks, that limestone,
ever belonged to the castle,
the Swedes who dug here would know. I’m posing
right on the edge of the spur. Posing
as if I own it. Tolo is there—
those white hotels and tavernas lining the shore.
And that on the island’s a chapel—the roof, terracotta.

My gaze embraced the bay
while I returned in thought to the cistern.
As I imagined things, its depth,
escaping the reach of our flashlight,
adhered to our soles; and our shadows,
repulsed by the shield-bearing sun,
deepened a shade underfoot.
I pictured off the coast of our home state
the crude oil billowing up
through deepwater’s ruptured horizon, tar
capturing even this bay.

The purple thistles, which we had to dodge,
were leaning to snag the westering sun.
The zeal of bees in the lavender blossoms
gave the heat the scent of thyme.
We’ve now retraced our steps, and here we are—
or rather here’s our table under a cedar:
horiátiki, yes, Greek salad,
eggplant imam, giant beans,
a sweating carafe of young white wine from Nemea.
“I glanced away, then back and found it gone,”
I say of the fox.
The red fox that awoke in the yellow weeds.

Originally appeared in Town Creek Poetry

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Poetry in this post: © David Havird
Published with the permission of David Havird