Were I to Build a Fortress
by JIM DAVIS
     FINALIST for the 2012 46er Prize
On the rooftop, flat and weathered,

Roof tar rotten from rain and steady traffic

Of small suburban animalia: the opossum

We found one morning in the trashcan, terrible,

Frightened and sharp, among others—were I

To build the fortress I thought by now would be,

I’d sling balloons stretched to their limits

With soapy water, testing their translucent colors

On the asphalt drive, heave them glittering in parabolic

Arcs through summer afternoons—not here

In the footprint mud of a thick, hard squid that was

A maple stump, noting its collection of grubs, worms,

And wood lice. There was a time when I would have

Counted the rings of the stump, collected the bugs

In a paint bucket sprinkled with dirt, magnolia sprigs

And small rocks for their amusement, poked holes in the lid

With a pen from my father’s dresser. Instead, I sweat

Out what’s left of three beers, the four stolen cigarettes

I smoked after tongue kissing the Fire Chief’s daughter— 

Threw up in the bushes at the far end of the drive,

Steps from where I now rid myself of thick perspiration,

The yard of a heavy stump. Were I to build a fortress

To ride out the summer, I would pull the rope ladder

Up after me, unravel it only for those who know

The password, or bring snacks. We are spinning

Through an unsettled world of power and duty, struggling

As the last root is unearthed, or severed.

I lean against the handle of the spade, wipe my brow,

Teetering on the fractal edge of childhood, industry, ever-after.
JIM DAVIS is a graduate of Knox College and an MFA candidate at Northwestern University. Jim lives, writes, and paints in Chicago, where he reads for TriQuarterly and edits North Chicago Review. His work has appeared in Seneca Review, Sharkforum, Sheepshead Review, Blue Mesa Review, The Café Review, and Contemporary American Voices. He is currently a featured artist for The Mayo Review and Ishaan Literary Review, in addition to winning the Line Zero Poetry Contest, Eye on Life Poetry Prize, multiple Editor's Choice awards, and a recent nomination for the Best of the Net Anthology. In addition to the arts, Jim is an international semi-professional football player.