Sonnet 38, Kevin Michael Davis, February 16, 1982 – July 23, 2010

by Thomas Davis

He died enveloped in his mother’s arms.
The two of them alone, she felt so tired
from lack of sleep, she thought about the charm
of closing eyes and drifting off, transpired
into a dream where waiting, dread, and love
were not commingled with each ragged breath
he took. But then his breathing changed. She shoved
herself out of her chair and smelled his death.
She put her arms around him as his eyes
flew open, glancing one last time at light,
and then his breathing stopped. The cloudy skies
leaked rain. Eyes stared without the gift of sight.

Her daughter said, she brought him to the earth,
her love the bridge between his death and birth.


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis

27 responses to “Sonnet 38, Kevin Michael Davis, February 16, 1982 – July 23, 2010

  1. Hard to know what to say – a private grief in splendid verse – my heart goes out to your family. Kathleen

  2. “Her daughter said, she brought him to the earth, her love the bridge between his death and birth.” There is nothing I can say. I am so sorry for your loss but you share it so gracefully…………… Thank you.

  3. Caddo Veil

    The reader is so present at this intimate moment–the beauty and the grief. My sympathies for the pain of loss which never completely ebbs. God bless you.

  4. heartbreakingly beautiful. God bless you!

  5. Thomas I was blessed to be holding my infant daughter when she passed away. I heard the change in her breath,I knew with every fiber of my being that she was near death but even with the stink of death in the air I could smell the sweetness that was her spirit.Your poem is not just about his passing but of the bond shared by parent to child. Your poem is an affirmation to me that yes I was the bridge .I’d do nothing differently in the way I handled things,for all was inspired by my love for her. Bless you all

    • Stronghearted, I appreciate this so much. I have had to let the sonnet rest for awhile before replying. I will guarantee you that you did exactly the right thing during the final hours. Bonds between mother and child always run deep and true, and though life delivers cruel blows, it is in the memory of those who have gone on that is important to visit once in awhile. Thank you so much for trusting me with this comment. Tom

  6. Scriptor Obscura

    My deepest sympathies to you. I am so sorry for your loss. Know that you are in my thoughts.

  7. This is a fine, fine poem – but more than that it is a beautiful and moving tribute to a young man and to his mother.

  8. I weep with that mother, reading this most evocative poem of losing someone only 28.5 years old! I mourn with you all his loss and celebrate with you his life. I especially celebrate that daugther who “she brought him to the earth, her love the bridge between his death and birth.”

  9. Thomas…. I’m weeping with your aching grief, and the beauty of this poignant poem you’ve brought forth. And those last lines ring like a clear bell – “her love the bridge between his death and birth.” Thank you for sharing this moment with us.

  10. A very moving honouring of your wife and son.

  11. Oh, Thomas. So much love in this piece and utterly unflinching. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  12. I don’t know if I’ve ever read anything as beautiful and terrible as this. Thank you both for your bravery and voices.

  13. Beautiful, emotional, and heart-breaking. Thank-you for sharing this with us, you are loved here Thomas.

  14. It is hard to find words to describe how moved I am by this poem.

    Thank you for having the courage to share for it is a wonderful tribute to both your son and to your wife.

    You are a true inspiration to us all


  15. Anna Mark

    This is a very intense poem. To smell death. To hear the breathing change. To watch eyes no longer have sight. To be the bridge between death and life. Frightful and beautiful in its brightness.

  16. To say this is powerful feels like an incredible understatement akin to saying that the sky is large. The deep humanity wrapped into every expression draws my heart in and stirs my soul. Magnificent

  17. extrasimile

    It’s hard to write a poem that focuses so directly on such powerful emotions. While I’m nowhere as well read as you think I am, Thomas, I have read my share of poetry, and frankly not one comes to mind—not good poems (some of Sylvia Plath? Well, maybe). And this sonnet is a good one, and not just to those of us who have come to know you and, given the limitations of the internet, come to love you and your generosity and intellect. It handles the formal requirements comfortably and it avoids the twin temptations of bathos and cliché that lay in wait. I’ll say it: It is sublime (in the old sense). It takes us into the mystery.
    Something I am struck by is the number of people who confessed to being, in one form or another, at a loss for words—‘hard to know what to say’; ‘there is nothing I can say’; it’s hard to find words’—it , is hard to find words. But poetry must be at some basic level about finding words. ‘Enveloped’, for example. At first it sounds wrong—but it isn’t. A creative writing class would have advised ‘captured’, I’ll bet. ‘He died a captive of his mother’s arms.’ Sounds good…but it’s not as good. ‘He died enveloped in his mother’s arms’…brings to mind Michelangelo’s pieta and the conflicting emotions it brings forth. For who wouldn’t want to die in his mother’s arms—except that it is a reversal of the natural order of things. Except that no one wants to do that to one’s mother. Just as a lot of the mystery of Christianity is ‘enveloped’ in Michelangelo’s statue, a lot of the mystery of our precarious position on the planet is captured by this line. Another example: ‘The cloudy skies leaked rain.’ How many pop songs have made use of this metaphor? It could be a ruinous cliché—except for that ‘leaked’. It evokes all that is wrong. It would be senseless for me to say it is a brilliant use of a word. We don’t want to be brilliant here. It can’t even rain properly.
    A last point: The absent narrator at the center of this poem. He is present and palpable and important to the poem, yet he is not there. How do we bear our wounds?
    Her daughter said, she brought him to the earth,
    her love the bridge between his death and birth.

    A bridge of love…
    And who, if I cried out among
    the orders of the angels,
    who would hear me?

    • Jim, I have had to wait for awhile before responding to such a generous comment. All of this sonnet sequence were written while Kevin was dying during the long, terrible days of his suffering. I had to have some release in order not to curse God, and sonnets were the only release I could find. I so wanted to remember him and our family in those dark hours and the love we have all had blessed into us by each other’s presence. Or, as in the case of this poem, shortly after his death.
      I am glad this is not hackneyed, although at the time I was telling what I thought I knew as directly and simply as I could. It did not seem to be a time for poetic poetry dressed with all the symbols, metaphors, history, and similes that I love so much. Your quote at the end of your comment summarizes much what I thought during those difficult days. I did not think my voice had any currency except to Ethel who was suffering as much as I was. Without the two of us spending all of those endless weeks in a strange place that we had trouble relating to at all, I may have lost all contact with reality. As it was our love held us together and made the situation more numbing than completely out of control.
      Life throws all of us such strange parabolic curves. Kevin achieved so much during his time with us–as human being filled with kindness and empathy, first, and then as a master of early Internet web design (his work even appeared in Japanese textbooks as examples of elegant design), then as photographer, and poet. Not to mention, of course, son. But now he’s gone…
      But his mother and sisters and our grandchildren are here, and I am still doing vital work, and Ethel and I have found a wordpress outlet for our poetry and art and a way to keep Kevin’s name and work still vital. I do not know if you will read this, but I thank you from the deepest part of my heart.

  18. It takes a long time…

  19. Perhaps it isn’t being at a loss for words but deeply feeling the intrusion into such a personal experience (even though you have allowed us to look in), and wanting to honor it with silence like a prayer.

  20. Anything I might want to say has been covered by others.

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