Catherine Davis

for tender stalkes


Sleepless, I think: how I should sleep
Cradled, as once, all night and eased
Of all the anguish that I keep
Pent up, alone, awake, diseased.

But then I think how restless I
Have been with love, how I would toss
And turn, would, though with love, still lie
Alone, possessed by an unknown loss.

It is not lack of love that left us
Sad as Simonides, whose sadness
Never embraced this unloved madness
That let the thought of such loss war
With having, which grief has bereft us
Of peace. But that is where we are.

Catherine Davis (1924-2002) was a lesbian who, despite being abandoned by her parents and suffering physical, emotional, and moral destitution, wrote great poems. She studied with Allen Tate, J. V. Cunningham, Yvor Winters, and Donald Justice; held the Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing at Stanford; and taught at several universities. Her poems were published in Poetry, Measure, Denver Quarterly, Paris Review, North American Review, Southern Review, and the anthology The New Poets of England and America, edited by Donald Hall, Robert Pack, and Louis Simpson (1957). She worked as a printer, and self-published four finepress books: The Leaves: Lyrics and Epigrams (Bembo Press, 1960), Second Beginnings & Other Poems (The King’s Quair Press, 1961), Under This Lintel (King’s Quair Press, 1962), and Looking In and Looking Out, R. L. Barth (1999). Helen Pinkerton Timpi and Suzanne J. Doyle have edited Davis’s poems, but publishers have shied from the project because they fear an heir might turn up and sue for copyright violation.